In a sense, wordless picture books are like frames excerpted from a silent movie, telling a story in their own quiet way. Because there are no words to guide the reader along and explain the sequence of events, such books are a true test of the illustrator’s storytelling vision and artistic abilities — although, here, Marla Frazee‘s considerable talents are such that she makes it all seem almost effortless.
Illustrated using pencil and gouache, The Farmer and the Clown is a wordless picture book that tells the story of the unlikely friendship between two seemingly disparate characters — a wizened, hard-toiling farmer and a cheeky little circus clown — who happen to cross paths one day; and so evocative and expressive are the illustrations that you genuinely grow to care about them.
As it so often happens when two people start to enjoy each other’s company, guards are let down and, in their place, bonds form. In particular, it’s heartwarming to see how the little clown helps to add much-needed colour — both literally and metaphorically — to the farmer’s serious, monochromatic life (as most children seem to excel at doing).
The ending of the book is also superbly executed — providing a satisfying closure to the tale, yet playfully hinting that the story doesn’t quite end there…