This week, the girls and I have been reading the newest release from The Fan Brothers, The Barnabus Project. If you are not familiar with the Fan Brothers (Eric and Terry) and their previous works, including The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky, then please get them from your library ASAP, because it's a serious oversight you need to rectify. The Barnabus Project is the first picture book where the third Fan brother, Devin, joins the team.
The cover itself is enchanting and the image of little Barnabus, half-mouse and half-elephant, staring out plaintively from his bell jar prison in the dark, just begs the reader to pick up this book. The main story is fascinating - animals are genetically engineered to make Perfect Pets - but not every experiment is a success. These Failed Projects, an eclectic groups of adorable mashups, are imprisoned in a lab deep below ground.
Barnabus is determined to avoid his doomed fate and wants to see the world he has heard so much about from his friend Pip, the cockroach. Readers will empathize with all the adorable Failed Projects, and cheer them on as they work together to escape the lab together and find a new life.
The illustrations are exactly what we have come to expect from The Fan Brothers - they are stunning in every way. Everything the creativity of the Failed Projects to the undercurrent of malevolence in the sinister lab and the Green Rubber Suits and the hopefulness in a simple image of Barnabus, imagining a starlit sky from the confines of his bell jar, is flawlessly executed.
I know of few other illustrators whose images evoke in me such an emotional response, even when viewed without any knowledge of the story. There's a reason I have multiple prints of their work throughout my house, and I hope to add some from this book soon. This is not just a picture book - it is a magnificent work of art.