Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

In The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, a 12-year-old genius cartographer receives a phone call from the Smithsonian announcing that he has won a prestigious award, inviting him to travel out to Washington to receive it at a gala event. They of course do not realize that T. S. is 12 years old, nor do his parents know he has secretly submitted his work to the Smithsonian. So he sets out at dawn to travel across the country from his home in Montana via freight train, hobo style.

As far as the story goes, it's not bad--a little too precocious and quirky for precocious- and quirkiness' sake. I can't say I didn't enjoy reading it, but what sets it apart are the visuals. For starters, I love the style of the cover. Pictured above and below are the objects T. S. has brought along with him on his journey, presented as though mounted in a museum exhibit.

Then you open the book. The first couple of pages are filled to the edges with this textured drawing. A smear of ink, a postmark, maybe the patterns on the inside of an envelope. And of course the hobo hotline (but I'll let you find out what that is on your own).

But the best part is T.S.'s maps, which fill the margins throughout the book. Some of them are a bit more on the convential side (the Yuma Bat Map, for instance).

But most of them are mapping out things like the act of shucking corn,

or facial expressions,
or the sounds heard on a freight train.

I love maps of any kind, so the illustrations--all of which were done by the talented Ben Gibson, who I had the privilege of working with until recently--are what really made this book for me.

The gold sparrow on the cover beneath the dust jacket is pretty nice (the color didn't really scan that well).

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