IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN TO ELISE GRAVEL lets readers see inside the marvelously creative, colorful sketchbook of this wildly imaginative and funny artist. It is also a challenge to young artists to face their fears by making "ugly drawings" and to draw all the time. Gravel begins her book telling readers,
At night, when my daughters are asleep, I draw in my black notebook. I draw complete nonsense. Whatever comes to mind. With markers, gouache, watercolour, lead pencils, or just ordinary pens. Even with my kids' pencils.
When I draw in my black notebook, it feels good - it's as if I let out all the ideas that are bouncing around my head. Ridiculous ideas, crazy ideas, bizarre ideas.
I never critique the drawings in my black notebook. I give myself the right to fail, to mess up, to create ugly drawings. I'm kind to myself. In my notebook I do what I want.
Exactly the encouragement and advice every young (and old) creative spirit needs to set pen, pencil or paintbrush to page. Gravel has a scientific bent, and that comes out in the pages of IF FOUND which features arrays of microbes (which Gravel names - Elise the Disease, Reba the Amoeba, Ella the Salmonella) and mushrooms (Russula peckii, Amanita virosa, Gyromitra esculenta).
However, it is the imaginary realm that occupies many of the pages in IF FOUND. There are ridiculous monsters, (Gravel admits she can't stop drawing monsters) imaginary friends, grumpy things, (including a self-portrait) the Speckled Pepperpop, the Glopple, the Floofs and the Flibberty-Whippets from the Northern Sea. Some creatures get a page of backstory to go with their fantastic names, some just get names.
Elise Gravel, a native of Montreal, Quebec, author of many picture books and a middle grade novel series, writes in both English and French. IF FOUND has been translated to English and there is one particular page which, I learned from the author, is a visual gag that doesn't translate exactly (it involves the French word for "glass," which sounds like the French word for "worm," and a gag about Cinderella's glass slipper) but still manages to capture Gravel's unique perspective.
If you have been reading my blog, you know I am a huge fan of Elise Gravel's. Her creativity and humor, in both her storytelling and illustration style, stand out on the shelves. This is the fourth book of hers I have reviewed in less than a year and I can't wait to see what she does next!