Bayetto, Paul & Kevin Stack (illus.) Paul Bayetto (text): Vladamir & the Box.
** BAYETTO, Paul & Kevin Stack (illus.) Paul Bayetto (text) Vladamir & the Box Self Pub (The Adventures of Vladamir), 2013 unpaged $15.00 pbk ISBN 9780987359018
Vladamir is unlike other boys. We first meet him, sitting on a large timber box set in a lush tropical garden. He is puzzled, he doesn't know anything about the box, its purpose, its dimensions or its contents. He stayed, however, on the box, in spite of the boredom, and he began to learn things about the box, it was large, strong and old, with an old smell, but he still did not know what it held, nor, unlike Pandora, would he try to open it--it might hold dangers, or fabulous riches, or nothing.
Still he sat on into adulthood and eventually old age, guarding the box and singing his box song, speculating on its contents, waiting for instructions to open it, and grieving over what he did not know as life passed him by.
This is a poignant, intriguing, philosophical and beautifully told fable of opportunities lost because of unwillingness to venture into the unknown. The language is rhythmic and poetic, employing much repetition to great effect, the mood full of mystery and melancholy.
Squeaking Tribe's remarkable and expressive puppets are characters from traditional literature; the child full of wonder and uncertainty, the young man, curious but ineffective and ultimately the white haired, gnomish old man, still steadfast but full of regret. Photographed in an idyllic garden setting, we see Vladamir in isolation from the life beyond the garden walls. Is this Eden or a prison?
The final pages contain some activities aimed at younger children, and an audiobook is available on Bayetto's website. The sombre theme and mood of this book make it unlikely to appeal to younger children, who may also find the puppets disturbing. It would make an excellent resource for a senior students' study.
Book 2 promises a very different tale in which Vladamir 'opens the box, leading to a number of exciting adventures'.
[c] The copyright of all articles and reviews remain with the author.
All prices are recommended only.
** Book by an Australian author or illustrator
[dagger][dagger] Book by a New Zealand author or illustrator
[a] An outstanding book of its kind as recommended by the reviewer
[b] An outstanding New Zealand book of its kind as recommended by the reviewer