The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer, translated by Jon Brokenbrow
Admiring Ana A. de Eulate’s The Sky of Afghanistan earlier this fall led me to Sonja Wimmer‘s spectacular art. Allow me a moment of WOW. I admit that finding only Wimmer’s name on the cover of this title was the initial reason I opened these pages, and how gleeful was I to discover that she’s incredibly facile with storytelling, as well … The Word Collector is perfect in so many ways.
“Luna was an extraordinary little girl,” the tale begins. Luna collects words: “funny words, that tickle your palate when you say them … friendly words that embrace your soul.” She’s surrounded by magical, delicious, crazy words … but “[l]ittle by little, the beautiful, magnificent and fun words began to disappear.”
The bird, clouds and travelers tell Luna how people are forgetting the words, losing them to non-use, considering themselves “too busy.” Luna devises an immediate plan that takes her “over seas and continents, mountains and cities,” armed with a suitcase filled with all her words: “Wherever there was hate and violence, she sowed words of brotherhood, love and tolerance within people’s hearts. Wherever there were people who were sad and lonely, she wove threads of warm words, words of friendship and compassion.”
Luna’s suitcase empties quickly. Her hard work proves joyously rewarding as she sees the people “throw letters to each other like balls” and invent new words, and give and share them. Luna is happy: “[a]fter all, what was the point of collecting something if you couldn’t share them?”
Wimmer’s story jumps off every double-page spread, each presented with swirling energy and unique perspective. Luna’s expressive kitty makes for an excellent sidekick, magical creatures float across the page, the too-busy people move from pulling hair and dumping soup to floating off with umbrellas and twirling with blissful abandon. To such whimsical images, Wimmer adds ever-changing text set in countless fonts and multiple sizes (and just in case you can’t find every word in exact order, the final spread is a type-only version of the whole story).
Remember that stinging childhood rhyme: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’? Rethink that: here’s proof of the power of words to heal, fix, enjoy, and share with others.
Published: 2012 (United States)