Anderson, M.T. Me, All Alone, at the End of the World. illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Candlewick, 2005. ISBN 978-0763615864 40pp. $16.99.
Civilization and it’s din invade the sanctuary of a barefoot boy and his mule who hunted fossils and listened to the wind before a Inn (orchestrated by one Mr. Shimmer, Professor Visionary) blossoms on his cliff at the End of the World.
At first, the crowds come for the sunsets and pines that the boy so loves, but soon the lights and noise make viewing nature–or hearing oneself think–impossible. The Inn escalates into a carnival style resort (complete with barker) in full swing 24/7/365. The invasive lifestyle is poisonous, causing dry heaves and sleepless nights. When our hero takes a step back from it all to evaluate the chaos, “There’s no time for thinking!” cries Shimmer to his audience. It’s a pivotal moment for the protagonist to decide if his life should be lived solely for “fun without end” and waiting for the next big thing.
Several weighty messages are deftly and subtlety packaged into this lovely picture book: trust your instincts, relish solitude, think, enjoy nature, spurn consumerism. Anderson’s clever turns of phrase (“long-leggedy,” “growl in voices like plumbing”) dance rhythmically across each page.
Starting with pine green endpapers, Hawkes deliberately juxtaposes organic hues at the beginning and end of the story with a jarring palette of discordant colors for the middle. Charming black and white illustrations give a static, old-fashioned tone to every other page of text, while the accompanying full page, full color illustrations in each spread are more fanciful and have a modern and dynamic feel.
Each choice by the creators is deliberate, and this entertaining story comes satisfyingly full circle in image and text without the heavy-handed feeling of a moral. Highly recommended.