That's all that needs to be said, really. If I could sum up this review in one word, 'wow' would certainly be the one - but I do need to say more.
I've long admired Tohby Riddle's work and this extraordinary book seems to be a departure from all of his work I've known and loved - although not completely. The whimsy is still there; his iconic illustrated characters still appear.
But the supremely dark, urban, gritty yet ethereal tone of this book is something that's really surprised me. And I'm loving it.
They come. Nobody knows from where. But they come. Through the night, into the city streets, where they walk with the people. They whisper, they comfort, they stand by and watch. They are there. A flicker. A blink. A flash. Something that can't quite be seen and perhaps not even felt.
Then one day, one of them falls. And it makes contact with the earth and its people, and it becomes inert, unmoving and suddenly very real to the real world. Until a rescue takes place - and life, in its cyclical way, moves on.
Riddle has used a compelling blending of imagery, dark-as-night pages and photography in this book that really set it apart from so many, and evokes the merest shadow of Shaun Tan.
The full page and comic-strip imagery features people with the haunting heads of statues of times gone by, giving an eerie, timeless lilt to this low-text, high-image account of the thin line between life on earth - and that beyond the physical realm.
Riddle has used a collection of photographs from such sources as NASA, the US Library of Congress, Civil War photographs and the Gottscho-Schleisner collection. He has also used details from slides of the Sahara Desert, taken in 1955 by his late father, Egerton Harold Riddle.
Geared for older readers but still more than suitable for the very young, this is a stunning, haunting yet beautiful book . . . and one that will stand the test of time.
Author/Illustrator: Tohby Riddle
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $35 RRP
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Hard cover
For ages: 8+
Type: Picture Book for Older Readers