Line 135 by Germano Zullo and Albertine

The first thing that will probably strike you when you pick up Line 135 is its odd size: measuring 19.5cm by 33cm, it’s shorter, and yet, also much wider than most of the other picture books. But don’t let this put you off since there’s a very good reason for the somewhat unwieldy size.

The premise of the book is simple: a girl takes a long train ride from her house in the city to where her grandma lives, out in the countryside. Along the way, she sits by the window to admire the view outside and — as people are wont to do in trains before smartphones and iPads came along — daydream: specifically, about travelling and ‘knowing’ the entire world when she grows up.

And even as she recounts the somewhat discouraging words of her more pragmatic mother and grandmother, she is undeterred by them and reiterates her lofty goals with the surety and confidence that only a child possesses.

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As her journey progresses, the beautifully detailed double-page inkwork spreads change to reflect the different landscapes that she travels through, both real and somewhat more whimsically reimagined in her mind’s eye. The illustrations are deliberately left uncoloured, except for the neon green train that cuts through them. And as you can probably surmise by now, the size of the book is designed to evoke the shape of the train and the length of the little girl’s journey, as well as to bring out the scale and grandeur of the landscapes depicted, and provide an impression of the vastness of the world that she has yet but yearns to explore.

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Written in the disarmingly idealistic voice of the girl, the spare but thoughtful narrative is a celebration of a child’s carefree optimism and spirit of adventure, as well as a timely reminder for us cynical grownups that life still presents a world of possibilities to people who do not impose limits on themselves.

p.s. Just a friendly warning: reading this book may rekindle strong feelings of wanderlust.

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