There's a certain magic to how certain books come into your life. My painful feet were dragging me through Parco Department Store in Nagoya, Japan one Christmas about two years ago. I came to a small book store that seemed to be connected to Tower Records (this is Japan remember, where everything is seemingly connected to everything else in the commercial world), and even though my feet were aching I needed a Christmas present for some children I know, so I lingered as long as my feet would hold out. By the way, I recommend always having children around in your life so that you can buy gifts for them - it is a wonderful excuse to always browse as long as possible in bookstores.
I was disappointed by the choice of books, even in Japanese. Mickey Mouse and Anpanman I had seen before. Disney Princesses in two languages. That children's book series that was popular at the time but was so forgettable I can't even remember what it was. Then, out of nowhere in a place that was not the children's section but also not really the place where all the grown-ups browse was a huge pile of Peter Sís books. The name jumped out at me immediately because I was a new fan, having been introduced by a friend who has some original artwork hanging in her home. The books were wrapped very tightly in several layers of plastic (welcome to Japan) and I couldn't see an example copy, so I just bought the thing, on special at 1600 yen ($16-ish).
What I like most about this book is its ability to provoke thought. Running your hands along the rough surface of each page is like tactile meditation, and the words match with the pictures perfectly. Some pages are filled to every corner with intricate detail and are overwhelming. Others make use of white space around the individual thoughts of the birds. Even though these birds move in a giant flock they are each individuals with their own characteristics and personal struggles. This is not a book for children nor is it a book for adults. Rather, this is a book for a person of any age who shares the poet's and the artist's sensibilities for metaphor.
For me and my pendant, the labyrinth has been lost, and found, and found, and found. Every time I think I am getting further away I am suddenly there. I am there in France, or I am there on the escalators in Parco. Every time I am suddenly there I am whisked away - like the time I landed my dream job in Nagoya and then immediately had to move to the United States. However like the labyrinth I have certain choices, and I am choosing to move forward a little each day. (Welcome to my blog)
Author/Illustrator: Peter Sís
Publisher: The Penguin Press (2011)
Language: English (based on a classic 12th century Persian epic poem)