You’ll recognise Hurst’s illustrations from her other picture books such as The Night Garden, Flood and The Midnight Club to name a few. Imagine a City is a glorious collection of Hurst’s artwork woven together into a magical tale of surrealism that feels like a fantastic carpet ride.
Two young children and their mother embark on a regular train ride into the city, which is where ordinary stops. All at once, their imaginations assume an Animalia magnitude with Mary Poppins possibilities as they meander through their day, stopping to admire, savour and marvel. I expect mother is on some sort of mission but this is happily forgotten as she joins her young wards in their jolly.
They are shadowed on every page by bunnies who surreptitiously guide them through fantastical locations and situations where ‘the fish fly through the sky’ and the world is ‘without edges’.
This is a picture book that takes little time to read yet entices you back for a closer look, challenging you to take another journey and seek out a different story. In the same vein as the wordless picture books of Shaun Tan, Imagine a City promotes out-of-the-box thinking, a sense of discovery and more than a touch of soul searching in readers of all ages.
Creatures of every description are featured in this whimsical world where the past is indefinable and readily defies magic. Hurst’s spare narrative and colourless crosshatch pen and ink illustrations submerse you in fathomless detail and textures that will leave you breathless and wondering.
I recently shared this book with an older special needs reader who positively radiated from the notion that reality is simply the combined images of our own experiences and aspirations and therefore unique and different to each of us. But of course, imagination is not restricted to the imaginative alone and neither should this picture book. Imagine a City is an enriching exploration of dreams and possibilities that will mean something profoundly unique to each reader, each time they lose themselves in it.
Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia June 2014