I’m a big fan of her Book of Mistakes (I highly recommend it), so naturally I was looking forward to Corinna Luyken’s latest. Despite my experience with her work and all the praise this book is getting, I still found myself blown-away. This better be up for the Caldecotts.
Dial (Penguin), 2019. Hardcover Picture Book, 32 pages.
Written in rhyme, Luyken is lyrical, evoking images of how the heart can manifest itself in known and unexpected ways. It’s the unusual written images that, of course, captured my attention.
The first image is familiar: “My heart is a window.” But what follows after the comma held my imagination: “my heart is a slide.” My mind considering the printmaker’s monotype of ink and pencil: the forward lean of the unseated child at the top of the slide: anticipation, exhilaration, the belly-flutter in the rush and drop, in ascent up the ladder, the descent; the indecision: let go, hands up or creep with heels dug in, hands inching or.
It’s of interest to me which images observe a figure (their posture) alone, or in company–whether they are interacting or in a line waiting their turn or gathered beneath the full reach/growth of a tree. Luyken will populate the book with a diverse set of faces, and most nicely lean toward androgyny.
Amid the black and grey, smudges and line-work, the yellow is vivid; even more distinct when it is absent. The double-spread for “fence” is especially striking. But even in the first spread: to the left, the text white against the empty black expanse of a wall (impenetrable/limiting). The right page provides the dramatic contrast, a window dominant on the page, awash in a yellow that actually shines through the curtains and the child standing before it. Potted plants rest in varying states of growth. The filigree at the top finds a reminiscence in the fence. The slide lands in a splash of yellow (a sun rising or setting?). A shimmer of yellow on the mother’s cheek.
Back to the images: “stain,” “a fence between me and the world.” I love that grouping of “a shadow, a light, and a guide.” Paired or apart from the illustrations, the pages are places to linger. The first read is a slow rhythmic turn of the page, but My Heart is one to return to for pleasure, for thought, for inspiration and conversation.
Fingers can find and trace the shape of hearts in every illustration. I love those in the clouds “heavy with rain,” and the smudge of yellow peeking through the closed blinds, where its delicate, where its blooming…
Remember the endpapers, friends. Tonally, narratively, they can be so important. At the open: a boy in the process of moving plants from pots to the earth; the landscape otherwise barren; the roots suspended, reaching. One planted, one in hand, one waiting (past, present, future, in motion, in process). At the close: the plants have taken root, see how they extend, one wraps around another’s… the foliage/flower are lit that yellow, like lamps, aglow, grown, growing, anticipating.
Luyken offers us a heart that is dynamic, capable of change, subject to moods, experiences, relationships, seasons; anticipating, waiting, imagining, remembering, knowing and not in the least passive or tepid. That declarative closing statement is the emphasis in a string of empowering images and provocations: “I get to decide.” You are reminded of the title; it’s possessive. The heart may manifest itself in many ways, invoke Luyken’s verbs and metaphors (whether written or illustrated), but the heart belongs to its owner. My heart is…and it can…
Recommended for fans of Isabelle Arsenault’s style, Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom’s question series, and or Jo Witek and Caroline Roussey’s imagination.
Corinna Luyken grew up in different cities along the West Coast, and after studying at Middlebury College, she settled in Washington State, where she draws inspiration from nature, her family, and the human form.
She visits “7 Imps” and walks us through her process; fascinating, lots of images, check it out.