This is a book for both children and adults to savour. Over the course of 176 beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully paired pages — with not a single word in sight — the authors juxtapose a series of images designed to make us stop, question and reconsider.
Some of the progressions are humorous: an urban jungle is followed by a natural jungle, with a chimp happily swinging through the vines, which is then followed by the same urban jungle but now with King Kong atop the skyscrapers!
Some illustrate the wonders of nature: a leaf supports a caterpillar, which then eats the leaf before making its home in a flower and then turning into a butterfly.
Some cause us to reflect on the evolution of civilisation and art: on one page, a buffalo is shown grazing, while on the tree in the scene a picture of that buffalo has been etched into the trunk. On the next page, the buffalo once again grazes, but its image is now captured in a canvas on an easel.
Depending on the age of the viewer, the book will be appreciated on different levels. My daughter, aged six, loved how the rocking horse on one page had the same basic design as the rocking chair on the opposite page. As an adult, freshly returned from visiting my elderly parents, I saw it as a commentary on our lives — from the youthful exuberance of rocking horses to the more fragile years of rocking chairs.
I could go on and on extolling the wonders of this book, but suffice it to say that it is one that will find a permanent home on my bookshelf.
Title: Before After
Authors/Illustrators: Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui
Publisher: Walker Books, $27.95 RRP
Publication Date: October 2014
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book