Best Picture Books of 2017, Kirkus Reviews
These cute, squirrel-like beings live in trees with rooms that have specific purposes: a room to be born in, a room to read in, a room to swim in. With notes on their history, their mythology, and their daily lives, Ponti builds an immersive experience akin to reading a fantasy novel–making this book a delight to pore over and get lost within.
My Valley is wonderfully large...as it needs to be to offer a world of vast spaces. It’s certainly big enough for a grandfather and grandson to hide behind. Ponti illustrates his own work, and while he can zoom in for the close detail, such as the eye of a curious giant, he’s equally good with a broad panorama. My Valley is filled with many full and detailed pages of the Blue Valley’s landscape, representing all four seasons. They’re an invitation to pause, regard the view, and get to know the world of the Twims as if you had their eyes, and as if you were their size.
French artist Ponti’s (Chick and Chickie Play All Day!) encyclopedic, large-format guide to the lives of Twims—furry woodland creatures with small ears and long, squirrel-like tails—unfolds through the voice of a young Twims named Poochie-Blue. (Fanciful names abound: among Poochie-Blue’s many siblings are Smarghoula and Olly-Booly.) In Waters’s sensitive translation, family stories (“In my house tree, way on top, there is the Star Room where we were all born”), historical notes (“Piong, a young child, got lost in a forest. He came out three hundred years later, a little bit bigger”), and meditations on the future (“O’Mess-Messian dreams of the book he will become one day when his life as a tree is over”) combine to present a multidimensional picture of the Twims’s world. Ponti’s dreamy paintings of towering trees and distant hills are worth lingering over. The same view of Poochie-Blue’s valley appears repeatedly, painted at different times of the day and in different seasons, offering readers the chance to grow to love it as the Twims do. Fans of immersive fantasy worlds will feel that they have discovered a treasure.
The sheer size of the pages encourage children to feel as though they could just tip forward and fall into the world before them... I don’t see a lot of books like this one. Which is to say, stories for a range of ages that serve the sole purpose of transporting you somewhere new... Awe-inspiring... A jaw-dropper made comfortable for the younger set. Worth discovering.
A mix of comical vignettes and broad vistas illustrate an account of the lives and misadventures of a clan of tiny Twims.
It must have been a challenge to translate: the oversized album, originally published in French in 1998, is narrated by Poochie-Blue—who introduces Sowhatty, Nothin'-Doin', and many like-named members of a teeming extended family as the book opens. He then takes readers on a tour of his hollow cliffside House Tree, the Forest of Lost Children, the Theater of Hissy Fits (where grievances can be acted out), and the cemetery gardens especially tailored for lovers of music or mountains, for haters, readers, or Twims just "waiting for the Goochnies to return." In between, he tells of the mushroomlike Goochnies' mysterious disappearance, of children who fell from the sky (actually from a passing windblown apartment house), of a Sad Giant's visit, and of weather and seasons in the idyllic seaside valley. Along with a labeled area map and a cutaway of the House Tree, Ponti alternates panels of Twims, who look like anthropomorphic lemmings (uniform in color but a little varied in features and dress), in action with immersive, full-page or larger land- and seascapes that seem to go on forever while offering multitudinous crags, glades and foreground features to investigate.
Like Poochie-Blue, visitors to the valley will be in no hurry to leave.
Ponti’s beautiful, intricate illustrations contain strange details hinting at larger stories. The guileless narrative sounds like it came directly from the brain of a child with a vivid imagination, and fanciful kids drawn by the enchanting artwork might find their own imaginations sparked by this odd, playful French import.
The work of Claude Ponti bursts to the point of vertigo; My Valley is a marvel, a book in the line of Borges, oriented toward infinity. My Valley is a masterpiece of children’s literature, a masterpiece of images and text, of dreams – quite simply, a very great book.
Each page is an invitation to reverie, a small tale inside a large one, dense and enigmatic such that you will linger there in contemplation.
A child could get happily lost in the valley – the most beautiful place in the world - where the Twims live. Twims are little furry critters with long tails that look something like a chubby monkey and something like a small bear. They live in tree houses and enjoy many of the same occupations as humans but their lives are very peaceful, almost free of discord. The illustrations convey a magical world that anyone would want to live in full of love, beauty, fun and intrigue.
Claude Ponti, in my eyes, is one of the most essential authors in the whole of children's literature. His bursting creativity and the wealth of his images incite the almost systematic pleasure of children. The Pontian universe, with its many cultural and artistic references, its themes and its language distinctive of the world of childhood, its originality in its forms, colors, typography, and the arrangement of its scenes, presents an offering of narratives that strongly engage children's emotions and which meet them on the horizon of their expectations. Here children often find the power that a new piece of knowledge or the control of a word bring, which allows them to influence their destiny just a little bit more.
Ponti is a necessity in any children's library.
My Valley marks a particularly exciting addition to the world of translated literature... lush with colorful and stark imagery that readers of all ages will find infinite secrets in. The pastiche of stories contain magic, compassion, and tongue-twisting names that will delight families for storytimes to come. This is a truly unique addition to any storybook collection.
Claude Ponti's gorgeous, deliciously oversized French picture book My Valley may feel to adults like one of those childhood favorites whose illustrations are forever etched in their minds. In fact, it's difficult to imagine anyone, young or old, able to resist the charms of this inventively imagined valley world ... A wonder.
This enchanting large-format picture takes the reader on a truly amazing journey ... There is so much to pore over in My Valley. The witty text and exquisite detail in the full page and smaller pictures capturing the surreal world of the Twims and their valley make this book an absolute must for any young reader (and for any adult too).
[T]he world Mr. Ponti has created... is one that I will be devouring for a long time... Truly, the sheer scope of this book is awe-inspiring... As a budding illustrator or artist, I would have lived in this book as a child, right alongside the Twims.