Tanja Bauerle: One Summer Up North

Review of One Summer Up North by John Owens

A wordless picture-book journey through the Boundary Waters, canoeing and camping with a family as they encounter the northwoods wilderness in all its spectacular beauty

The power of wordless picture books is often underestimated. They are universal – there is no language barrier, so anyone can experience the joy of a book through this wordless format. These books, driven solely by the illustrations, allow readers to delve into the deeper meaning of story. They empower one to make connections and decide which visual elements are important to them, therefore driving the story.

John Owens employs the wordless format successfully and effectively. The story features a family on a canoe adventure. However, the environment also becomes a vital character. The reader is an observer within the environment which allows for greater exploration of the illustrations. The sights, sounds, and atmosphere of the outdoors become a personal journey that differs for every individual. When immersing one’s self in the illustrations, someone might focus on the landscape, or possibly the wildlife, or maybe simply the water itself. There is something for everyone because each reader becomes an active participant, choosing the story they wish to follow.

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