It’s hard to believe we’re already down to the last 3 days of the Picture Books 14:14 Challenge! For Day 12, I’m looking at Palazzo Inverso for its innovative use of pattern and format.
Title: Palazzo Inverso
Author & Illustrator: D. B. Johnson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010
Usually, I would say that nothing makes a book stronger than a good story. But, while this story is good, it’s the M. C. Escher inspired writing pattern of this book that makes it so captivating, and this format ingeniously supports the theme of the story as well.
The book opens:
Every day was the same.
Mauk is tired of his daily routine, sharpening the Master’s pencils as he builds his grand palazzo, but never allowed to add his own creativity to the work. But today, something is off about the palazzo. Everything is mixed up, flip flopped, and topsy-turvy. The Master blames Mauk for turning the drawing of the palazzo around while he was working on it.
Here is where the genius comes in. Just as Mauk turns the drawing around, the reader reaches the last page and turns the whole book around. The story continues on the other side of the page, reading back toward the front cover. As the Master and his workers all chase Mauk back through the palazzo, and Mauk discovers that he can run on the ceiling and climb down the undersides of staircases, the same pictures function upside down to illustrate the second half of the story.
Mauk realizes that the Master and workers are no longer blaming him for the palazzo mix-up, but cheering for him, for his ceiling-running antics and for his hand in creating the beautiful “palazzo inverso.”
The author takes the “circular story” pattern one step further, not just referring back to the beginning, but actually reconnecting to it so that the story could go on forever, like an Escher mobius strip.
The world was so new and wonderful, it was hard to believe he had once thought that… Every day was the same.
The theme of the story is that something ordinary can be exciting and new when you look at it with a different perspective, and Palazzo Inverso does not only show us this metaphorically through the story, but literally, as the reader turns the book upside down and sees the very same pictures illustrating something new.