Square

Square
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
Walker Books

In a previous book we left Square obstructing the entrance to Triangle’s home and now he’s back moving in and out of his own secret abode hauling large rock cubes from his subterranean stash all the way up to the top of a hill. This he regards as his ‘work’.

One day while he’s thus engaged along comes Circle pronouncing him a “genius” and “sculptor”. Thinking his block sculpture to be a self-portrait, she commissions one of her, promising to return the following day. Now Square really does have a tricky undertaking: Circle is perfect.

Anxiously he sets to work but as the rain falls, Square’s far from perfect shape begins to disintegrate and come nightfall he’s surrounded by a circular pile of rubble into which the rain falls.

By now his anxiety is almost palpable and having determined to stay up all night, overwhelmed by despair, he falls fast asleep.

Morning comes and with it the realisation that he’s allowed himself to be beguiled by Circle’s talk of genius. There he stands in a large puddle surrounded by a circle of rubble.

Eager to set eyes on her portrait, Circle rolls along early and sees her reflection in the puddle.

Declaring it “perfect” she reaffirms Square’s genius and departs.

Barnett’s final throwaway ‘But was he really?’ leaves readers, and indeed Square, to ponder and make their own decisions, not the least of which are, what does it mean to be an artist? And, what is art?

With his characteristic minimalism Klassen imbues his art with humorous detail: the twig for instance that looks like a wilted aerial on Square’s head, and the way he just keels over in utter exhaustion, are superb.

Barnett’s brief, droll text, combined with Klassen’s illustrations make this a perfect offering for those who enjoy pondering upon and discussing philosophical questions. Community of Enquiry enthusiasts and artists in particular will love this, as indeed will anyone who enjoys the subtlety of this duo’s picture books.

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