Monday, July 13, 2015

Paper Chase: Float by Daniel Miyares

A cloudy summer afternoon and some scrap paper are the beginning of something big. A boy's dad shows him how to fold the traditional cocked-hat paper boat.

And just in time! It begins to rain lightly, opening up possibilities, and clad in bright yellow slicker and hood, the boy steps out into the gray drizzle, sheltering his boat from the damp. The storm builds into a downpour, hiding the boy in a blur of gray rainfall and blurry yellow raincoat. But then the shower passes, leaving deep puddles just right for splashing and a beguiling rivulet along the curb. The boy launches his boat.

It floats! As the wide porches and peaked roofs of his street are reflected upside down in the flow, the little barque sails along, picking up speed as the flow of water seems to widen and deepen.

Oh! There's a reason for that building water power, as the boy sees his little boat disappear down the gratings of a storm drain. In a dramatic page view, the boat is seen from below the street, in the sudden waterfall, rushing downstream as the boy's reaching hand fails to catch it.

Listening to the water rushing beneath the street, the boy chases after, until he reaches an arched bridge. Looking down, he sees the rainwater torrent rushing out to join a small stream, and, soggy and shapeless, the remains of his boat.

Sadly the boy fishes it out of the tangle of flotsam along the bank and heads home. The rain is gone and so is his boat.

But back home, there are a dry tee and shorts, a blow dry for his drippy hair and a hot drink with Dad, and the two pull out more paper. His father patiently show him how to shape one sheet into another familiar pattern... a paper airplane.

Armed for more adventures, the boy opens the door. Silhouetted against the bright gold of the returned sun, he steps forward and lifts his aircraft high for its first flight.

Daniel Miyares' latest, Float (Simon and Schuster, 2015) is an artistic tour de force which without words expresses the joy of independent childhood imagination and adventure. Miyares' boy, evoking Ezra Jack Keats' iconic Peter in The Snowy Day and Raymond Briggs boy in The Snowman, is the center of a story with the perfect, (and sometimes lost) balance of loving adult guidance and freedom of experience in the out-of-doors. Miyares' illustrations, an essay in grays from varying perspectives, are highlighted only by small squares of color on the recycled paper and by the dramatic bright yellow of the boy's slicker, at the end repeated brilliantly in the golden doorway which opens to beckoning adventures on the final page. Wordlessly but eloquently, Miyares portrays the world outside, the houses and streets as both orderly and intriguing, a place where a child can go to find experience, wonder, and joy. An amazing book, simple yet profound, with much to offer. Publishers Weekly says, "It’s a moment of childhood captured in multiple dimensions." Watch for this one at award time!

And as a special bonus, Miyares' endpapers offer diagrams for making paper boats and airplanes.

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