A journey in the unknown:
Smon Smon

The latest visionary work by German award-winning artist Sonja Danowski is out in Italian today, published by Orecchio Acerbo.
We are reading the English edition published by NorthSouth Books in March.

Sonja's art is magnificent as usual (if you are not familiar with it, take a deeper look here) although the atmosphere in this book is quite different from any of her previous ones, much brighter and surreal.
The Smon Smon are gender neutral alien creatures with accordion necks and human(ish) faces, living on a rocky, autumn planet called Gon Gon. They sleep in wild mushrooms called pon pon, and spend most of their time gathering food, the ron ron, some sort of reddish berries. They share the planet with other animal-like creatures in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation, simplicity and love for each other and for their mates.

This could happily be a wordless book: the imagery would keep its strength and vision, but it wouldn't be as weird.
It's the absurd narration making read aloud a truly odd experience, establishing a back-and-forth movement between images and words, and requiring our effort to learn everything (language included) about this unnatural and unfamiliar place,
We are more on the level of a child-sized science-fiction book here than on that of a traditional children literature.
When we finally make up our mind on what is what and we partially overcome the sense of alienation, we are left more confused, curious and adventurous.
I think this book offers an interesting reading experience, although it is clearly not for all, and there is no clear-cut meaning to look for.

Whatever this desolate land is, whether this is a pure exercise in style of Danowski's imagination or a the vision of a possible future of devolution to an elementary state of life and feelings, it forces us to deal with diversity and with the conflicting feelings that diversity and the unknown generate.
Although this book can be offered to readers as young as 4 year old, I think it would be more inspiring the most for early readers (6+) so that they can approach the narration independently, working out words and images in their own time and following their imagination.
Smon Smon [January 2018]
English edition by NorthSouth Books [March 2018]
Italian edition by orecchioacerbo [May2018]
by Sonja Danowski
Reading age: 6+
Themes: Diversity, Absurdity

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