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Palazzo Inverso Hardcover – May 3, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Product Description
Mauk's master is drawing up plans for a grand palazzo, and Mauk is NOT allowed to help. Mauk only sharpens the master's pencils--he doesn't actually use them.
...Or does he?
One morning, Mauk's master is horrified to discover that his plans have run amok, and the construction of the grand palazzo has, too! Is Mauk really to blame? Or is that just the master's point of view?

In this delightful picture book, D. B. Johnson channels the groundbraking style and philosophies of M. C. Escher to tell an endless story with countless perspectives.
M. C. Escher (6/17/1898-3/27/1972)

Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from D.B. Johnson, Author of Palazzo Inverso

Dear Amazon Reader,

Have you ever thought how much fun it would be if, when you reached the end of a picture book, you could turn it upside down and magically read all the way back to the front? Wouldn't it be amazing if the pictures made sense, right side up AND upside down? When I told my son about this idea, his immediate response was, "Only M.C. Escher could do those pictures."

My son is a writer, and we brainstormed the story together. We both loved the optical illusions and puzzles of the Dutch artist, M. C. Escher. If only we could capture the magic and playfulness of those endlessly looping stairs and topsy-turvy rooms in a story about a palazzo that's built upside down!

The hero of the story is a young apprentice named Mauk. Like most kids, he loves to draw, but grownups like his Master will only let him sharpen the pencils. And when things go wrong, like most kids, he gets all the blame. One lucky circumstance saves our small hero: when Mauk turns the drawing of the palazzo right side up again, a magical thing happens--he alone can run on the ceiling of the Palazzo Inverso!

Those who have read my five books about a bear named Henry, beginning with Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton Mifflin 2000), will understand why I wrote Palazzo Inverso. The book meshes perfectly with my desire to bring the ideas of great writers and artists to young children. Just as my bear reenacts Henry David Thoreau's quest to live a simple life, Mauk is the young M. C. Escher, imagining an impossible world full of surprising possibilities. I want kids to feel the power and exhilaration of running on the ceiling, of knowing that everything for them is still possible.

I am reminded that Thoreau wrote that he always regretted he was not as smart as the day he was born. And Escher tells us, "I don't grow up. In me is the small child of my early days."

Happy reading!
D. B. Johnson

(Photo © Medora Herbert)

From Booklist

Normally, M. C. Escher’s work is the province of eye-candy posters for college freshman, but this picture book, is a nifty homage. Hewing to the Escher method of turning perspective inside out, this invites viewers to follow young Mauk, whose master is building a grand palace. With text running along the bottom of the page, Mauk dashes up and down stairs and around corners, dodging painters dangling from ceilings and walls, until he notices that all sense of direction has become bafflingly unmoored. On the last page, it turns out that Mauk has simply turned the master’s drawing plans around a bit, and the narrative flips over to the top of the page and runs backward through the same set of visuals, this time with an entirely different meaning. Events can be a bit disorienting, but things even out by the end—which is the beginning—and presents another opportunity to spin back through the Möbius strip of the story. An undeniably impressive bit of optical trickery with an even neater narrative flip at the conclusion. Ed: the grade levels indicate this s/b in Younger readers, not Middle; fix? Grades K-3. --Ian Chipman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 450L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547239998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547239996
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

D.B. Johnson, one reviewer has written, "has brought down the curtain on the static picture book for children. With the recent publication of his Mother Nature Rhymes (iPad only for now), [Johnson] has singlehandedly transformed the picture book into a dynamic event. From now on, if it isn't interactive and doesn't have multimedia (animation and audio at least) as an ePub publication, it is just too too old hat. There are picture books aplenty with animation and audio today, but they must run inside dedicated apps which cost thousands of dollars to produce. [Johnson] has created an ePUb-formatted eBook that any writer or illustrator can assemble on their own with no greater cost than the software tools they are already using, plus an understanding of HTML5 and CSS--open-source web programming tools that are easy to learn. Authors can now independently and economically produce finished products and sell them directly to their readers. Mother Nature Rhymes consists of 15 two-page spreads, with an original rhyme on one page and an illustration on the facing page. Gentle sound effects accompany the gentle animations, as birds and butterflies fly between the pages, a robin on a swing is wooed by a red-eyed virago, and other aural and visual treats delight your little ones as you read them to sleep."
D. B. Johnson's most recent print book, Magritte's Marvelous Hat, was inspired by the work of Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte and is filled with Magritte-like word puzzles and impossible pictures that will spark the imagination of both children and adults. The book includes four overlay pages that transform the pictures as the page is turned. In a starred review, School Library Journal says of Magritte's Marvelous Hat..."The artist's fascination with the limits of perception and two-dimensional representation provides mind-boggling images that children will relish. Johnson's additional layer of a hide-and-seek game and the inclusion of his own tricks offer more reasons to look closely. An author's note gives a brief context. Moving back and forth between this book and Magritte's art would be instructive and enjoyable for puzzle enthusiasts of any age. Beckoning, buoyant...brilliant."

D. B. Johnson's goal with each of his picture books is to draw children to the complex ideas in great works of literature and art. His first illustrated children's book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (Houghton Mifflin 2000), introduced one of his most endearing characters: Henry the bear. Henry is based on Henry David Thoreau, a nineteenth-century writer and philosopher who advocated a simple way of life, unencumbered by material possessions. Winner of several prestigious awards, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg "works on several levels," according to Booklist. "Johnson's adaptation of a paragraph taken from Thoreau's Walden ... illuminates the contrast between materialistic and naturalistic views of life without ranting or preaching."

In a starred review of the fifth book in his Henry series, Kirkus wrote: "From Henry Hikes to Fitchburg (2000) on, Johnson has surpassed all conventional biographers in presenting Thoreau's philosophy and spirit in ways that will make sense to younger readers." Henry's Night is ..."a great bedtime read, as mysterious and thought-provoking as a zen koan."

In addition to his "Henry" books, Johnson has also created several other characters that have engaged young readers. In Eddie's Kingdom a young artist (inspired by the Quaker folk painter, Edward Hicks) draws a picture he hopes will bring an end to all the arguments he hears from the tenants sharing his apartment building. Another original picture book, Four Legs Bad, Two Legs Good!, takes place on a falling-down farm where Farmer Orvie, a pig, spends too much time napping to keep things in proper order. With simplicity and humor, Johnson adds a lively new chapter to George Orwell's classic, Animal Farm. And his 2010 picture book, Palazzo Inverso, introduced children to the topsy-turvy world of Dutch artist M. C. Escher. With what Booklist lauded as "an undeniably impressive bit of optical trickery," readers turned the book upside-down at the end and read all the way back to the beginning in an endless Escher-loop.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Laurita-spangle on May 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book takes a wonderful and whimsical journey through a world that any child would love to inhabit -- a grand palace that, due to the mischief of a young builder's apprentice, has been built upside-down. In the playful logic of this book, the error allows the child to skip away from the adults by running -- you guessed it -- on the ceiling!

True to the topsy-turvy idea, the book is read first from front to back, then upside-down and back to front. Your kids will have you keep reading -- and trust me, you'll have a hard time stopping for bedtime, since the story itself is an infinite loop, with the last line and first line overlapping.

Even more amazingly, I've figured out that each two-page spread ALSO forms a continuous loop, with the text on the bottom flowing to the top like a mobius strip, so you can turn the book upside down on ANY page and continue reading in either direction, forward or reverse! Give it a try to see what I mean. Turning the book around in the middle can create some unexpected twists, so that PALAZZO INVERSO can continue to surprise and delight long after first readings... Wonderfully loopy, fast-paced fun!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lise Miller on May 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The STORY even beautifully underscores the book's read-it-upside-down function!

Mauk is just an apprentice, but through his agency -- okay, antics :) -- he creates something exciting and beautiful: an upside-down Palace! We discover that the reason the Palazzo looks so bizarre is that Mauk has defied the Master by turning his drawing little by little, day by day, until finally, on the morning of the story, he sees that his mischief made the builders build it upside down.

Mauk's renegade act is rewarded not only by the beauty of a brand-new creation, but by appreciation from all the shlubs toiling away on the building. He has become an inspiration!

This is truly the INVERSE of what most people think and teach about doing things your own way. D.B. Johnson -- just like in his Henry books -- puts the JOY back into independent action and then lets you read his book any way you want!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Fraser on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
D.B. Johnson's artwork is always superb, and his newest book "Palazzo Inverso" is no exception. Readers of all ages will be enchanted by Johnson's Escheresque drawings and refreshingly inventive story line. Upon reaching the end of the book, turn it upside down and read on. The pictures are every bit as wonderful in the upside down (now right side up) orientation. Equally ingenious is that the reader can turn the book over at any point in the story, and it still makes sense. "Palazzo" is a joyful, playful, visual delight!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on May 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the 1960s, the local amusement park (Dutch Wonderland) offered a "ride" that was more disconcerting than any other I had experienced as a child. We stepped into a house that looked seemingly normal from the outside. We sat down on one of the benches on either side of a main aisle. Then the front door was shut, and the turmoil began. The house was turned upside down around us, so that we could easily see the ceiling below our feet and the floor up over our heads. Our perspective was skewed, however, because it seemed as though WE were turning upside down, and not the structure. This was even more frightening than it sounds because we were not strapped in to our seats at all, and we could seemingly drop to the floor on our heads if the laws of gravity held true. What a house of horrors for a young child! At the same time, it was somewhat intriguing to see a hanging pendant lamp now growing like a mushroom from the center of the surface beneath us; and to see heavy furniture hovering precariously from up above. Thank goodness the house eventually came full circle, and we could stand (albeit, a bit wobbly) on the floor and the ground once again.

That memory and those of the M.C. Escher prints that hung on the walls of my 1970s college dorm room both come zooming back to me through the pages of "Palazzo Inverso." The children of today need not go to an amusement park or to a poster shop to get that topsy-turvy feeling. This is the story of young apprentice Mauk: who, in his innocence, has had the audacity to suggest that there might be a different way of looking at things, even at architectural drawings and buildings. The result is a merry journey along the hallways and stairways of the palace in progress. Which way is up? Well, that depends.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DaleC on May 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
D.B. Johnson takes complex ideas regarding art and philosophy and renders them accessible to the young mind, and he does so with a wonderful artistic style. He is most well known for this Henry series ("Henry Hikes to Fitchburg," "Henry's Night," etc.) in which the ideas of Henry David Thoreau are channeled through an engaging bear.

"Palazzo Inverso" is his most ambitious work to date from a technical standpoint, bringing M.C. Escher's topsy-turvy, tesselated world to life in a gorgeous, sepia-toned picturebook.

Mauk is a mischievous apprentice to a Master who is building a palazzo. When the Master is not looking, Mauk rearranges his drawings so that the workers end up building a palace resembling the "impossible" Escher structures where water runs uphill and stairways lead to the same level at which they began.

Johnson has gone Escher one better by adding a narrative which is itself something of a topsy-turvy wonder. Not only does the text read in a continuous loop (when you reach the last page, you turn the book upside-down and read "back" to the front), but each single page is a continuous enclosed narrative.

Children will be fascinated, charmed, and delighted by the goings-on in Mauk's palace.
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