Review of Cave Paintings

Cave Paintings
by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by Rafael ­Yockteng; trans. from Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary    Groundwood    48 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-773-06172-6    $19.95
e-book ed.  978-1-773-06173-3    $16.95

Buitrago and Yockteng (Walk with Me, rev. 5/17; On the Other Side of the Garden, rev. 7/18) turn to full-blown science fiction in this story of a young traveler’s journey through outer space to visit his beloved grandmother on a futuristic Earth. The spare first-person text comprises pensive statements (“it’s worth it to cross one universe to explore another”), which are regularly divvied up across several pages — creating meaningful reveals with every page-turn while also foregrounding Yockteng’s otherworldly illustrations. Rendered digitally (while still retaining an organic quality), scenes of highly advanced spacecraft, polychromatic galaxies, and alien lifeforms of every size, color, and shape fill each double-page spread. The surprising destination of the boy and the book is reached in an enlightening encounter with what seem to be the cave paintings of southern France. Inspired by the ancient art, as well as a recent gift of his great-great-grandfather’s colored pencils, on the way home the child begins to draw what he sees outside the spaceship window — namely, infinity. An ode to the endless possibilities of art, a celebration of open borders, and a reverence for the contributions of our collective ancestors.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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