author: Jairo Buitrago
illustrator: Rafael Yockteng
translator (from Spanish): Elisa Amado
Groundwood / House of Anansi Press, 2020
As young readers follow a young (human) child’s journey across the universe—from deep space all the way to Earth—to visit his beloved grandmother for the summer holidays, they encounter galaxies, comets and planets, and all manner of travelers.
This is not the first time the young narrator has traveled alone, “from planet to planet. Sun to sun.” On the flight, he encounters airline workers and passengers—lifeforms of varying shapes, colors and species—and when he disembarks, there is his grandmother, along with all kinds of quasi-human creatures. With his grandmother in the lead, the child crosses “one universe to explore another.” Donning headlamps, the two go sight-seeing, and the child is amazed as they examine the eons-old cave paintings (much like the ancient images of animals at Lascaux and Chauvet Cave in France) and finally, when the holidays are over, his grandmother gives him some presents that had belonged to his grandfather and, before that, his grandfather’s grandfather. The boy stares with amazement and joy—at the wonder of a box of colored pencils. “They were good for making marks on paper,” he says. “She gave me that too.”
As the boy waves goodbye to his grandmother and prepares to fly back home, he greets the pilot, a robot, a four-eyed man, a goat, and a sleeping woman. And he draws and draws and draws what he could see out the window—“because what I could see was infinity.”
Buitrago’s spare narrative text, combined with Yockting’s imaginative, double-spread digital illustrations incorporating varying styles of artwork capture the amazement of a child exploring his grandmother’s world on Earth. This seemingly simple story reveals a range of concepts—from the child’s laid-back attitude about intergalactic space travel to his wonder at its infinite expanse to his amazement at a box of colored pencils.
As with their other picture books (Two White Rabbits, Walk with Me), the team of Buitrago and Yockteng, with Amado translating, have created another outstanding story that will resonate with the youngest readers and listeners. Cave Paintings is highly recommended.