The first thing you notice when spying The Conductor is its elongated shape which instantly draws you in, towering as it does over most other picture books. Winner of the V&A Illustration Award and the children’s book award for the Bologna Ragazzi Opera Prima, such accolades must surely attest to the quality of this beautifully composed book.
The wordless narrative follows an orchestral conductor atop a tree, whose every baton movement causes the leaves arounds him to come alive, transform and fly off across the book’s pages. With a final bow the conductor then climbs down, plants his baton and leaves us to watch as this too is transformed into a tree, the score inevitably waiting to begin again.
Laëtitia Devernay’s execution is superb, her intricate line work set against a limited palette of pale yellow and dull green is captivating in a simple, quiet, but oh-so-beautiful way. Devernay’s use of space cannot be overlooked here; as leaves fly from page to page, sometimes in formation, sometimes in seeming chaos, filling the negative space and then creating more emptiness, their presence forms a rise and fall to the narrative. The simplicity of the story is matched seamlessly with the artwork, each of the subtleties working harmoniously with the other. This book is the epitome of ‘less is more.’
With no text the newly formed ‘birds’ instead take on the role of the music, their movement setting a natural rhythm to the book. As you silently follow their journey the piece reaches an almighty crescendo, their presence dominating the pages until they too disappear and the ensuing diminuendo takes over, their absence merely accentuating the silence of the story itself. The placing of the conductor within a new and unexpected context gives this book a magical, almost other-worldly feeling, that captures the imagination and more importantly the heart, for this is a book to fall in love with.
The Conductor is a book for anyone with a love of beautiful imagery, containing as it does page after page of enchanting artwork. A book whose story comes alive, soars through the pages and gracefully departs, The Conductor will leave you crying for an encore. Any book as original as this deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, and so we urge you to experience for yourselves the magic of this book.