Celebrated artist and illustrator Gary Taxali has mastered a style that evokes the posters and advertising design of the 1930s. His first picture book for children is filled with his trademark kooky characters and chunky printed colours. It all looks fun, but it’s hard not to wonder: is it really for kids?
The tale is a simple, silly rhyme about a fez-wearing boy named Sol who tumbles down a hole into a cartoon world. There, he encounters a variety of beings who look as though they’ve escaped from off of the food labels in an old grocery store.
There is not much story to speak of, but the character design is remarkably consistent. Each page is a field of vivid pastels where candy pinks and blues and mustardy yellows are textured with half-tone dots and rusty brown line art. This is more aesthetically pleasing than engaging, the exception being the final page, a shiny mirror in which kids can make their own silly faces.
The book’s overall effect is of faded nostalgia, a pang one does not normally associate with preschoolers. This Is Silly! is a little like those retro tin toys that are better appreciated in a collector case than crashed together in a playpen.