Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Hiro Kamigaki and Chihiro Maruyama: Pierre the Maze Detective

Pierre Front Cover - thumbGuest reviewer Lucy reviews a wondrous Japanese children’s book of art and play.

Pierre the Maze Detective: The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone is a shining example of how to make interactive children’s books into works of art. Spread over 15 lusciously detailed double page spreads, each depicting a different maze, the book ‘tells’ the story of Pierre and his friend Carmen running across the city to track down the phantom thief Mr X after he steals the titular maze stone. ‘Tells’ is too structured a term, however: the story is simple because its strongest points are the art and the reader’s engagement in solving the mazes.

IC4DESIGN are known for their gorgeous artwork in advertising and campaigns, and they certainly hold nothing back on Pierre. Each maze is unlike the next, and yet they are sequential: from the sea to a harbour scene, from a forest village to a haunted mansion, each with their own style. The meticulously detailed art presents every paving stone, every plank of wood, every single brick in giant spreads designed specifically to hold mazes. These take the form of paths and streets that the reader can follow from the starting point on each page to the goal, passing by the many extra ‘events’ advertised at the bottom of the page (finding a certain character who has gone missing, for example). As a result, while Pierre could be compared to the Where’s Wally? books for their interactivity and detailed art, the actual interaction with the book is different. Pierre also has more geometrical art with a focus on settings rather than people.

extract from Pierre the Maze Detective by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4Designs plublished by Laurence King (5)While the art is outstanding, the writing does make its demographic clear. Chihiro Maruyama and Emma Sakamiya, the translator, do a good job of writing cheerful introductions to each scene but this – while beautiful to look at – is a children’s book and not necessarily recommended to readers much older than ten unless they find completing the mazes calming. The effectiveness of the book also depends on the reader’s willingness to cooperate in following the mazes properly, and in having the enthusiasm to find the extra items to ‘complete’ the story. The mazes themselves can also become confusing or – alternatively – far too simple, and, as with all puzzle books of this type, there is little re-read value if you already know the solutions. For young children, this is less of a concern, however.

This book is thus highly recommended for younger readers who enjoy puzzle books, both for its imagination and the obvious care that has been put into creating each scene.

extract from Pierre the Maze Detective by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4Designs plublished by Laurence King (6)

Pierre the Maze Detective: The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone was created by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4 DESIGN, written by Chihiro Maruyama and translated by Emma Sakamiya (Laurence King Publishing, 2015), £14.95, ISBN is 978-1-78067-563-3.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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