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)
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