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The Hole: A Philosophical Scandinavian Children’s Book About the Meaning of Existence

“Hello, I’ve discovered a hole in my apartment… It moves… If you could come take a look… Bring it down, you say? What? Hello?!”

Brooklyn-based independent publisher Enchanted Lion Books has given us countless gems, including my labor-of-love pet project, young Mark Twain’s Advice to Little Girls. Now comes The Hole (public library) by artist Øyvind Torseter, one of Norway’s most celebrated illustrators and the talent behind the lovely My Father’s Arms Are a Boat — the story of a lovable protagonist who wakes up one day and discovers a mysterious hole in his apartment, which moves and seems to have a mind of its own. Befuddled, he looks for its origin — in vain. He packs it in a box and takes it to a lab, but still no explanation.

With Torseter’s minimalist yet visually eloquent pen-and-digital line drawings, vaguely reminiscent of Sir Quentin Blake and Tomi Ungerer yet decidedly distinctive, the story is at once simple and profound, amusing and philosophical, the sort of quiet meditation that gently, playfully tickles us into existential inquiry.

What makes the book especially magical is that a die-cut hole runs from the wonderfully gritty cardboard cover through every page and all the way out through the back cover — an especial delight for those of us who swoon over masterpieces of die-cut whimsy. In every page, the hole is masterfully incorporated into the visual narrative, adding an element of tactile delight that only an analog book can afford. The screen thus does it little justice, as these digital images feature a mere magenta-rimmed circle where the die-cut hole actually appears, but I’ve tried to capture its charm in a few photographs accompanying the page illustrations.

Complement The Hole with Enchanted Lion’s equally heartening Little Bird and Bear Despair, then revisit Torseter’s My Father’s Arms Are a Boat.

Page images courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books; photographs by Maria Popova

Published September 16, 2013




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