Candlewick Press 2020. E-book, 40 pp.
The title page opens on a suburban neighborhood block, at a house with a red door we are about to enter. Inside, a father wakes a child whose room indicates a passion for nature and exploration. [It holds clues for the day I didn’t register until the second read through.] In a sequence of unframed panels, the boy wakes, prepares for a journey, and they are driving, putting the city behind them.
As the two hike, Oswald illustrates scenes for the reader to explore, animals to spy along the forested trail. Oswald will also inspire the reader’s future outdoor adventures by engaging his protagonists in activities using binoculars, spyglasses, cameras, and journals; by spying evidence of wildlife like feathers and footprints.
The hike isn’t a gentle stroll; the log crossing is nicely rendered to express tension. The hands reaching moment is especially wonderful. Oswald communicates so much joy and exhilaration throughout, and you reach a pinnacle and I thought, the hike and climb was for this moment. And then the page turned.
The hike is a long and fulfilling day, and I thought the arrival home would its close. And then the page turned. There a few more things to truly complete the hike. The father and son continue to build a memory; one part of a journey.
The structure mimics the life of the book: a collection of moments creates movement, a sequence of steps, interrupted periodically by pauses—full page images or double spread panoramas. The angle of the lens marks ascending and descending action. By the end, I began to wonder if the perspective, often from overhead is less the reader and perhaps someone in the family album, some other family member, an earlier naturalist. That it’s wordless allows for an imagination’s ambient sound, or a reader’s personal exclamations or other ad-libs; maybe moments to share one’s own experiences/memories: “that time when…”
Lovers of nature and the out-of-doors are an obvious audience for this picture book, but I think its broader appeal could instill a love and fascination in others. The investment in nature is generational. And the relationship with nature reciprocal. Oswald’s Hike is a good morning book, or bedtime. It’s a good anticipation book, and one that unwinds. Hike is one to have on hand, or check out.
Pete Oswald is the illustrator of the New York Times bestsellers The Bad Seed and The Good Egg, both written by Jory John. He worked as a character designer and concept artist on the popular films Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania, and ParaNorman. He was also the art director and production designer for The Angry Birds Movie. Pete Oswald lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and three children.