Illustrator Arthur Geisert lives in a converted bank in Bernard, IA, and almost every year for over a quarter of century he churns out another wonderfully detailed wordless children's book, typically populated by resourceful and hard-working human-like pigs. His latest book, Ice, originally published in France in 2009, has just recently seen its release here in the States. It's a super clever, off-kilter tale about the virtues of labor, community, and beating the heat.
A huge sun beats down on a small desert island of A-frame huts, inhabited by pigs. The massive fresh water pool that provides water for the pigs is running dangerously low. Still, nothing seems to get these pigs down, and a plan is hatched to launch a flying balloon-powered ship for an arctic expedition in search of ice. After finding a suitably sized iceberg, it's outfitted with a rudder and sail, and towed back home. Where upon their return, all of the residents go about meticulously carving it into manageable blocks for replenishing their water supply, or, as one family does, improvising a makeshift air-conditioner.
What I love most about Geisert's pigs is their work ethic and all around unflagging gusto. They seem to relish tackling a problem and enjoy throwing themselves into a task. I really love the meta-narrative going on here. The whole community participates. Women and men work side-by-side as equals, and even the kids pitch in, carrying small blocks of ice or bundles of kindling for the air-ship's stove.
I'm always a little worried my son won't enjoy Geisert's work, primarily since I'm secretly purchasing them for myself. But, without fail, as soon as we cracked the spine on this one, he was completely lost in this little island of industrious pigs.
Ice by Arthur Geisert, $10.17
(images: Ben Partridge)