Peter Sís…has made a specialty of chronicling the lives of maverick outsiders from Galileo to Darwin. He first told bits and pieces of his own coming-of-age story in
The Wall, but the autobiographical Robinson is a more intimate, child's-eye view of a schoolboy's struggles to navigate the treacherous crosscurrents of self and society…In his illustrations for Robinson, Sís reprises long-time favorite graphic maneuversarresting bird's eye perspectives, imaginary landscapes that double as maps of themselveswhile also showing a new interest in color that mirrors the story's heightened emotional urgency.
The New York Times Book Review - Leonard S. Marcus
Sís’s story, based on a childhood incident, opens at a school’s costume party. The narrator, Peter, comes dressed as Robinson Crusoe, in fur garments carefully sewn by his mother. His friends, dressed as pirates, jeer him. Shaken, Peter retreats to his bedroom, where subsequent spreads follow his dream journey to Crusoe’s island, a place filled with strange trees, beautiful flowers, and multicolored birds—“Is there no one here but me?” he wonders. Washes of amethyst, rosy pink, indigo, and emerald evoke the scents and sounds of the strange land. An exquisite aerial view shows the boy in a dozen places at once, fishing, farming, and guiding baby sea tortoises into the water; in another, he feasts with animals at a dinner table. Dream morphs into reality as the arrival of pirates turns into a visit from Peter’s friends, with an apology. Using the boy to reenact Crusoe’s story lovingly underscores the way books allow readers to see themselves in what they read, and to find adventure and solace there. Sís further reflects on his memories in a candid afterword, accompanied by a priceless childhood photo of him dressed as Crusoe. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Praise for "Intimate...arresting...evocative." Robinson: The New York Times Book Review"A beautiful meditation on hurt, healing and friendship…lush…deft and rewarding." The Wall Street Journal"[This] magical new picture book focuses on the freedom to be yourself... And the takeaway? The pleasures of story and imagination deepen capacity to be resourceful, brave, forgiving and free." San Francisco Chronicle* "An enchanting love letter to the magic of childhood and the fertile relationship between good literature and young readers' imaginations." Kirkus Reviews, starred review* "Lovingly underscores the way books allow readers to see themselves in what they read, and to find adventure and solace there." Publishers Weekly, starred review* "Sís's ability to represent and resolve the theater unfolding in children's minds is unparalleled. A brilliant adventure." School Library Journal, starred review* "Alive with color and hope and possibility... [a] visually stunning and empowering tale." Horn Book Magazine, starred review"[A] beautifully illustrated parable about the value of self-reliance and solitude." Booklist"Simply gorgeous... an unforgettable journey and a feast for the eyes." Bookpage"[Kids will] relish the notion of adventurous survival on a desert island.... [with a] Gauguin-like tropical atmosphere." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, recommended
K-Gr 3—Sís's latest picture book fuses an episode from his childhood with the plot of Robinson Crusoe—a favorite novel when he was young. Sequential panels lead to full-bleed double spreads as the first-person accounts describe the way a group of five diverse friends play pirates in every conceivable setting, from a backyard tent to the bathtub. When the school costume party is announced, the collective choice is obvious, until Peter's mother suggests that he go as Crusoe. The ensuing drama—contrasting the boy's anticipation about wearing the lovingly crafted outfit with embarrassment as the friends (unfamiliar with the story) tease him—is one that will resonate with many readers. A dream sequence follows the boy's retreat to his room, where the bed becomes a boat, and he floats "in and out of hours, or maybe days." The artist's signature meticulously detailed watercolor and ink scenes become looser, stylized, the colors more saturated—think Matisse's Fauve period. Peter enters lush landscapes, a maze of tropical fruit and wild creatures, and nurturing green and blue scenes of exquisite beauty. He takes on the persona of his favorite protagonist, "owning" the costume at last. Ever on the lookout for pirates, he makes peace with his friends in a deeply satisfying conclusion. Visual references to earlier books, nods to Maurice Sendak, and a photograph with the author's note describing the incident that inspired this tale all provide depth and insight. VERDICT Sís's ability to represent and resolve the theater unfolding in children's minds is unparalleled. A brilliant adventure to share one-on-one or with a small group.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library
Sís takes readers on a journey to a Slumberland-esque island that reinforces the joys of storytelling and would make Winsor McCay's Little Nemo proud.In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, the author pays homage to his literary forbears and allows readers to experience the seductive imaginative power that enables readers to disappear into and embody the stories they love. The protagonist—based on Sís himself—and his friends (a multiethnic group) love nothing more than playing at being pirates. When their school hosts a costume contest, the white boy's mother convinces him to dress as Robinson Crusoe, his favorite hero, instead of a pirate. Like Michael Ende's Bastian Balthazar Bux, the boy is teased for daring to be different and escapes into his imagination to find courage and adventure. As the sepia tones of the real world give way to the luxuriant, water-colored dreamscape, readers will lose themselves in the lush greens of the trees used to build the protagonist's forest home and long to swim in the deep blue water swirling around the island paradise (populated only by friendly animals—no Man Friday here). Experimentation in different artistic styles further enhances the creativity and otherworldly quality of Sís' landscape. The author's note at the end also proves delightful. An enchanting love letter to the magic of childhood and the fertile relationship between good literature and young readers' imaginations. (Picture book. 4-8)