Review: Immi, by Karin Littlewood

A heartwarming story in a great frozen land…

Yes, I know, that was possibly the corniest sentence I’ve ever written. Still, that is exactly what Karin Littlewood’s delicate little picturebook Immi does to the reader.

Immi is a charmingly old-fashioned story about a young Eskimo girl whose white world is gradually lit up by tiny wooden objects she finds in the water that flows under the ice. But where do they come from? And how can Immi thank their unknown sender? The final twist is just as lovely, simple, and idealistically atemporal as the rest.

Littlewood’s subtle play on colours demonstrates the versatile character of watercolour, from frosty glazes of white and ice blue to the soft, sunny glow of the mysterious objects Immi receives. The traditional, clear line drawing style is perfectly adapted to this story which seems to reject, almost resolutely, the noise and speed of the modern world.

This is truly where the genius of Immi resides: in creating a world where everything is slow, quiet, subdued; where people are linked not artificially and ecstatically, and eager to reveal everything about themselves to each other, but where the mystery of human relationships is celebrated and the slowness, uncertainty of their development is what makes them so precious. The ‘gifts’ Immi exchanges with her friend on the other side of the world are patiently carved tributes to the value of their relationship.

This is also a book about nature, but not of the traditional kind. Nature is neither a caring nor a threatening force – it is there, it is changeable, and it constructs and constrains the human. Water in particular, in all its variety, rules the story. Water brings the gifts, water builds Immi’s frozen world, and water, of course, is the very matter of the illustrations – from its solid reds to its evasive, diluted whites.

Immi is a refreshingly quiet tale, almost Japanese in its contemplative and simple aesthetic. An ode to silence, patience and trust, it offers a welcome contrast to the flashy, energetic style of most modern picturebooks.

by Clementine

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