Saturday, August 18, 2012

Upside, Downside: Up Above and Down Below by Paloma Valdivia

Some live up above and some live down below.

When the ones on top put on their bathing suits,
the ones down below put up their umbrellas.

Judging from the world map on the front endpapers, this small book appears to be on the subject of life in the northern and southern hemispheres. When spring comes up above, autumn begins down below. One way, it's time to sow. On other side it's time to reap.

On Earth, which way is UP? Which one is RIGHT?

But Paloma Valdivia's Up Above and Down Below (Owl Kids, 2011) is much more than a geographic treatise on life north and south of the Equator. Far from it.

Valdivia's simple treatise has more to do with what we make of differences.

Each page is divided by a horizontal red line. Above, people go about their daily business, herding cows, strolling babies, picking apples, making music. Down below is an almost mirror image, and if the reader turns the book upside down, the ones above become the ones below and vice versa.

But point-of-view is everything, and it seems that on top, people tend to think that the ones on the other side are unlike them. Where one side walks their dog, they think the other side, the ones with reindeer horns, walk their fish instead. But what if they could fly to where the others are? What if they were all in the same place? Now what?

...They can all look at the world the other way around,"

We're all different in the same ways, this philosophical little book seems to be saying, and Valdivia's abstract and stylized graphic design seem to be saying that when you see both sides, you can see that there is no up or down, no we and they. Just us folks. Observant readers will notice that, to illustrate that premise, in the closing endpapers the world map is turned around the other way.

"A visually stunning, gently restrained picture book," says Kirkus Review. "A small book about a big idea."

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