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*The Other Side* by Istvan Banyai

The Other Side
by Istvan Banyai
ages 9-12 48 pages Chronicle Books July 2005 Hardcover    

A visual treat for old and young alike, The Other Side is a unique exploration of, well, the other side, challenging young readers and adults alike to open their minds and explore the unknown. Each page introduces new elements into the artist’s clever illustrations, new points of view that question the obvious, the top, the bottom, the flip side of what our eyes perceive.

Looking through a window, a paper airplane glides by; from the exterior of the building, an apartment house, myriad tiny planes fly on the currents of wind; then from the perspective of a jetliner, we see other such airplanes skimming the horizon. A woman sits in an empty theater, waiting for the curtain to rise, the spotlight illuminating a small head with a pointed red cap; from behind the curtain, we see a clown peeking through, and on the stage with him, a ballerina, a bird in a skirt, a cat, a tiger.

Pass through a chaotic classroom into an upside-down world, where a house is resting on its roof, centered in a plain landscape where flamingoes patiently wait under a pale moon. A boy (in a red cap) steps into a topsy-turvy room, the furniture hanging from the ceiling, at least from his perspective. A yellow taxi honks at a penguin riding a bike across the street, the penguin thinking, “look out before you go to the other side!” On the next page is a stopped taxi, a shattered bicycle and a billboard: “the grass is greener on the other side” (the penguin walks away unharmed).

And so it goes, each illustration revealing more elements of the compositions to pique our curiosity, each idiosyncratic figure with another point of view. On one side of a block, passersby are startled by a "bang!" Even the mannequins in a store window turn their attention to the commotion; but it is only a film crew, as we can see from around the corner, a cowboy shoot-out in front of a toy store.

The simple illustrations in black, white and gray are highlighted by the occasional spot of yellow or bright red, the elegant drawings belying a sophisticated mind. An excellent book to peruse with a child, The Other Side is another title in the Chronicle Books wide variety of children's books. Istvan Banyai not only steps outside the box, he makes the box disappear!

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  Luan Gaines/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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