Friday, 13 March 2015

The Onion’s Great Escape by Sara Fanelli

The Onion’s Great Escape
Sara Fanelli

The Onion’s Great Escape is as distinctive as any other Fanelli work.  Her use of papers, collage, typography and all those eyes scream Sara Fanelli, thought that does not diminish the playfulness, or the skill at work here.  Between the covers of this striking mustard yellow book, with its distinctive hand lettering, we follow a young onion as it begs us to free it, to help it escape its inevitable fate: the big fry.  Along the way it poses questions sure to make readers, young and old, think.  With a sing-song rhyming text the onion’s philosophical ponderings read almost like riddles, ’If you think of an elephant how big is your thought?’  But it is posing big questions about who we are and what makes up who we are: ‘Can you be happy without knowing it?  Would you be different if you had a different name?’  The book explores the nature of dreams, fears, memories and time; Fanelli wants us to examine what defines us and in turn has provided plenty of space to answer questions, write and draw pictures.  Her bold colour palette and use of old paper surfaces means that we are never faced with the prospect of writing on a pristine white page.  This is a book that is interactive and encouragingly so.  Her illustrations themselves interact playfully with the magnificent onion, transforming it from a tentacled sea creature to a beautiful butterfly.


Now, speaking of the onion.  The book is printed on paper a little thicker than usual because this is ‘a disappearing book.’  With every page turn we are able to pop a piece of the onion out of the book, freeing it a little more.  This eventually removes the better part of the spine from the book but what you are left with is a book with a delightful onion shaped hole upon opening, and a three dimensional onion, full of cheerful, calm, mischievous faces, and inquisitive questions, to display.  It is, of course, up to each individual reader to decide whether to free their onion from the book because once removed it can’t be put back.  We chose to free ours, which was no easy decision, but it is after all its purpose, and the book was designed especially to do so.  Also, that is one charming onion!  


Fanelli’s colour palette is bright and exciting, her typography is as exquisite as ever and adds a gentleness, warmth and personality to the pages that a standard font would not.  The conversational tone and playfulness of the cheeky onion are comic and endearing, and only further add to the many joys of this book.  We have so far not written our answers in our book; this is a book for fearless owners: for children, who will think nothing of it.  And what a pleasure it will be to re-read those answers in years to come.


The Onion’s Great Escape is fun, intelligent and brilliantly designed.  Not a book to be shelved but should it be so, and should you choose to free it, at least you will have a gorgeous onion to display and remind you to re-read your book every once in a while.

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