Matthew Cordell’s “Dream” is a gorgeous and extraordinarily touching picture book evocation of the joys and fears of parenthood and childhood. New mom and dad gorillas adore their infant, and one of them dreams of his future and their own. That dream is rendered so movingly that every page commands our total emotional involvement in each stage of that baby’s growth. It’s as if each page is a poem of love and the book is a poetic ode in words and pictures to the power of parental care.
The details, both visual and verbal, are stunning in their virtuosity and tenderness. The very first page is a wordless picture of a gorilla arm drawing a green line — the beginning of a life. That green line will become the first of many trees of life that bloom and grow throughout the piece. And that baby will bloom and grow as well, as in a parent’s dream, he experiences the beauty and sadness that characterize the progress of each and every life, all under the watchful eyes of the adoring parents.
Why gorillas instead of humans? Perhaps to demonstrate the universality of natural love and love of nature. The parents watch with pride and fear as he climbs a high tree; with wonder as he makes his way into the world; with the melancholy realization that he must eventually leave — but this bond and this love will never dissolve.
A two-page illustration — just before the dream ends — is particularly meaningful and clever. The pictures depict five stages of the baby’s growth, and it’s both reminiscent of and symbolic of the illustrations we’ve often seen of the stages of human evolution: The infant “walks” on four legs; the toddler on three as he takes some chances; the growing child on two as he experiments and courts the dangers of the unknown; the fourth balancing on his two front legs (or arms) as he daringly explores the new paths on which life leads him; and finally — he flies. Brilliant work.
(Review by Jack Kramer)
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for review purposes.