Review by Alicia L’Archevêque
Tundra Books, Penguin Random House, 2022
48 pages. Hardcover. CAN. $24.99. ISBN: 9780735270251
3-7 years old (Preschool-Grade 2)
Fiction, Picture Book
“That night, before he said good night to the mountain, the boy drew it once more. And, this time, he was completely satisfied.”
Like a mountain, this book proves that beauty can be found in both the grandest and smallest of things. Written by Mario Bellini and Marianna Coppo, The Boy and the Mountain is a sweet tale of friendship, perspective, and creativity. In a story dusted with wholesome details, we follow a young artist in a seemingly solitary quest to improve his art. Through his search for artistic accuracy, the boy finds himself enveloped with a sense of warmth and community that was unnoticeable from afar.
From his bedroom window, a young boy is fascinated by a distant mountain. It becomes his muse, but he is dissatisfied with his drawings—he feels as though he hasn’t drawn the mountain accurately. So, the boy sets off on a journey to see his beloved mountain more closely. Throughout his hike, he meets friendly animals and marvels at bits of nature, all of which inspire his art. Despite having gotten a closer look, the boy is unable to shake the feeling that his drawings of the mountain are still not complete. When he reaches the peak, equipped with a fresh perspective, the boy finally understands what makes his mountain so special.
Marianna Coppo’s gouache paintings are a perfect fit for this story. Thick strokes, colorful pastels, and clean shapes dress the pages, giving the characters and their world a playful allure. Coppo presents a minimalistic, yet soulful, depiction of the characters and their surroundings, and her adorable art style complements the simple text. Throughout the book, her uncluttered drawings leave room for the plot to shine while still containing quirky details to delight the observant eye, such as mismatched shoes or a miniature snail perched on a bear’s shoulder.
While reading this book, I found myself relating to the boy’s creative frustrations. The impossibly high standard of accuracy that he has set for his own artwork is a feeling that hits close to home – it can feel like a big responsibility to do your inspiration justice. Luckily, the boy’s story leads by example, reiterating the importance of taking a step back to see your muses in a new way, appreciating the creative journey just as much as the result. Bellini and Coppo’s work is charming, heart-warming, and worth a close read. Often compared to Pete Oswald’s Hike, this is an attractive book for nature lovers and artists alike. The story lends its readers the courage to see the mountains they admire from afar with a new perspective, encouraging them to celebrate the tiny wonders that adorn their journey.
Alicia L’Archevêque loves to write, talk about movies, dance with friends, and climb trees in good company. She is an art student at UBC and a swimmer on the school’s varsity team.