There’s a lot to love about Peter Sís’ autobiographical picture book, an adventure story that pays tribute to the enduring imagination of children. Told from the point of view of Sís as a young boy, the story first draws readers into the grand, creative play of a group of friends. Peter and his four best buds love adventure, and they particularly love to engage in pirate play. When their school announces a costume party, they are sure they’ll all show up dressed as pirates.
But Peter’s mother has a better idea: She sews him a Robinson Crusoe costume. After all, he’s the hero of Peter’s favorite book. When all his friends point and laugh at his costume, Peter goes home and collapses into bed, where he has a detailed dream about sailing to and exploring an island. Here the story shifts dramatically to the boy’s solitary play. His friends may show up in his bedroom later to apologize, but it’s during Peter’s imaginative solo adventure that he finds healing and courage, making this story a tribute not only to Daniel Defoe’s classic novel but also to the resilience of children.
Sís’ palette is especially stunning. The illustrations expand to full-bleed spreads upon the boy’s arrival at the island, and the colors shift from primarily earth-toned hues to rich blues and greens. It’s simply gorgeous. “I feel stronger now and brave,” the boy thinks as he learns to survive on the mysterious island, with shadows lurking, animals appearing and flora and fauna flourishing.
Robinson is an unforgettable journey and a feast for the eyes.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.