Claude Ponti's MY VALLEY

I received a second book from the publicist at Archipelago Books ("A nonprofit press devoted to contemporary & classic world literature"), who sent me the previous FEATHER from their Elsewhere Editions imprint. This one is called MY VALLEY, written and illustrated by Claude Ponti, translated from French by Alyson Waters.
This book immediately struck me as different. Partly by the sheer size of it - it's 11"x15"! The cover design doesn't take full advantage of the luscious artwork on it - I wish it had been full bleed. And then there are the endpapers. This must have taken ages!
But how to talk about this book? It reminds me a bit of that 80s sensation GNOMES by Wil Huygen, in that Mr. Ponti has created a world for us, detailing the living conditions and habits of a race of creatures called Twims. I'll admit I'm not drawn to them as illustrated characters.
However, the world Mr. Ponti has created for them is one that I will be devouring for a long time. Much of the artwork in the book is a study of a particular landscape scene.
He shows it in snow, in summer, in a storm...
As a reader, I'm happy for him to do this as each landscape is absolutely stunning. Interspersed in the landscapes are close-ups of the Twim's homes and diversions, such as this ship.
Whether a fan of the creatures or not, this is a feast for the eyes.
     Mr. Ponti is also a genius with trees.
This forest reminded me of the forest in Patrick Benson's THE MINPINS (below).
His gnarled trees seem reminiscent of Arthur Rackham.
The detailed work is breathtaking, truly.
And again, I see the influence of Patrick Benson when I look at the pen and ink work up close.
Some of the artwork seems more appropriate for an editorial market - it seems like Mr. Ponti played at making the images and then fit a story around them. I'm okay with that. I'm happy to see the results of his play.
Truly, the sheer scope of this book is awe-inspiring. (My hand is here for size.)
Again, this is a book that would probably not sell to a US publisher for children. But it has a place in the world. As a budding illustrator or artist, I would have lived in this book as a child, right alongside the Twims.
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