João by a Thread
by Roger Mello
$11.00 – $18.95
Written and Illustrated by Roger Mello
Translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn
As João tucks under a lovingly woven quilt, he asks himself: So it’s just me now? He curls up, getting cozy in bed, and soon the world of his dreams unspools on the page. The blanket in his bed unravels into deep rivers, lakes, valleys, reservoirs, mountain ranges, fishing nets full of tadpoles and gaping holes, until what’s left is just one long thread. When he feels alone and scared in the dark, João “sews words like patchwork” into a new blanket to cover himself up. He weaves the threads of his quilt until they form one long sentence, and soon, the nighttime is peppered with his own silvery, slippery words. Roger Mello draws like a shapeshifter – to look at his illustrations is always to see something you missed before. His breathtaking line drawings, beaming in white thread against deep red, combined with poetic and bewildered language, make João by a Thread a book to take into bed at the edge of sleep, just before you start to dream.
The publication of this book was made possible with the generous support of the Coby Foundation.
Published on October 25th, 2022
A jewel box of a book . . . Mello embraces a bright, lacquer red to tell the story of a boy alone in bed at night . . . Directly and honestly, Mello faces the fear that grips so many of us, even well into adulthood . . . João startles awake and discovers that he is exposed, laid bare: In his terror, his blanket has unraveled. With touching resourcefulness, he reweaves his blanket out of scattered words, making up a lullaby as he goes. Such is the solace of language.
At the book’s core, João’s bedtime reveries wed a simple premise with magnificent possibilities. Over several pages, readers consider João’s blanket as it flutters as if in the wind, trembles under the fidgety feet of its drowsy owner, and strains against “a fish that’s bigger than us.” A passing reference to a father who “goes out fishing” hints at a source of João’s ruminations. Soon, João wakes with a question: “Who unraveled my blanket?” To return to his dreams, João threads together words strewn across the floor into a “word-blanket” more fanciful than ever. Evocative in its execution, this Brazilian import invites readers to ponder the scenarios it casts (and those it doesn’t) . . . A moody, ingenious masterstroke.
Taking a patterned blanket as focal point, Mello narrates a child’s nighttime experience in this entrancing, question-filled book, which gestures toward the way connection (to family, to nature) can be felt, even when one is "alone with myself."
Playing with proportions both in its illustrations and in its language, this picture book uses intricate line drawings in a stark red, black, and white palette to illustrate its dreamy tale of a boy drifting off to sleep . . . Musing, wondrous, and weird, it’s a story that stands to charm young ones, yes, but to enchant adults, too
— Foreword Reviews
We love the uniqueness, culture and free thinking this book offers. The detail in the pictures is so intriguing and we do recommend to really take the time to look at the illustrations and ask your child what they see in the tapestry. It will become an adventure just to hear what is seen.