This gallery of surreal images by Billout (Number 24) does not follow any narrative. Instead, each high-definition graphic presents an independent scene from nature or a sharp architectural rendering in which "something's not quite right." A page labeled "Dune" pictures a smooth white mountain against a blue sky; a person in robes climbs one side, suggesting desert sand, while a figure in a parka climbs the other, suggesting drifted snow. In "Secession," Billout neatly bisects all the bridges that cross the Seine River, allowing Paris's Ile de la Cit to float free; in "Skyscraper," he pictures a pointy steeple scratching a blue line across the face of the full moon. New York's Flatiron Building features in two panels, forcing its way through a snowy crust ("Ice Age") and poised on the brink of a sand-colored abyss where Broadway and Fifth Avenue used to intersect ("Canyon"). Billout's dark humor comes through in images like "Probabilities," which pictures a zebra whose stripes form a bull's-eye pattern and, in the foreground, the silhouette of a hunter and a rifle's barrel; he has a more whimsical touch in "Attack," which pictures a military general's statue, a solitary pedestrian recoiling in shock, and a snowball which seems to have come out of nowhere. Billout illustrates for the Atlantic Monthly, and it is easy to imagine these puzzling stand-alone images as magazine covers; admirers of Magritte or Istvan Banyai will want to take a look. All ages. (Dec.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 3 Up-One glance at the ocean liner that is traveling right over a huge gorge on the cover of this oversized book is enough to warn readers that "Something's not quite right." Billout's large paintings bordered in white fill every page, and each one contains the unexpected: impossible juxtapositions of climate and place; structures that are interrupted; creatures and objects where they don't belong. A man in a field of snow looking up at a statue of an equestrian soldier would hardly be remarkable, but the fact that a cannon is aimed at his head, his hat is on the ground, a snowball is at his feet, and the title above is "Attack" delivers a jolt. A structure that resembles New York's Flatiron Building looks very much like the prow of a ship cutting through ice on a street of ice, a penguin in the foreground, along with the title "Ice Age." Surprises like these abound. The back-cover copy states that, "The smallest detail can make the greatest difference" and urges readers to solve the "tiny mystery" on each page. They will relish doing just that, and older children may also take up the challenge to discover how the page titles, the only text in the book, relate to the illustrations. Billout's clever wordplay and unusual pairings are reminiscent of David Macaulay's work, and using this book with his Shortcut (1995) and Rome Antics (1997, both Houghton) will spark many discussions.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.