Before/After

Before After

Illustrators/Authors Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui

Walker Books UK, Hbk, AUD $27.95, ISBN 9781406357936

Winner of the 2015 Bologna Ragazzi Award for Non-Fiction

In Before After it’s possible to silently marvel at the changes suggested by the movement of time, but you are just as likely find yourself wanting to talk about and share the elegant time-slips you hold in your hands.

Before After is built upon superior design talents of Ramstein and Arégui. Everything about the illustrations speaks of control and precision – yet the pages never cease to engage the child’s imagination. The picture puzzles are too numerous, too playful, too fully realised, to remain exercises in style. The colour palette is carefully modulated, no clashing colours – that would only break the mood of contemplation.

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An acorn becomes an oak tree, a rocking horse a rocking chair, a field of wheat a baguette. Skating on ice becomes roller-blading by a lake…

These changes can stretch to longer sequences, too. In one passage a giant squid becomes a bottle of ink, then a pigeon that becomes a plume in the ink bottle, followed by a typewriter, then a carrier pigeon, an airmail envelope and an airplane taking flight.

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The humour is low-key, subtle, sometimes sly and always charming. My favourite pages are the egg followed by the chicken, followed by the chicken followed by the egg. C'est drôle, n’est pas?

If Before After has a deeper message about time, then the message is carried very lightly indeed, and never intrudes on this elegant parlour game. Before After may well be entirely wordless: still you will want to read it again and again and again.  

About the illustrators

Matthias Arégui graduated from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg. His work appears in Le Monde, in the New York Times, and in books from Gallimard.

Anne-Margot Ramstein studied art in Paris and illustration at the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg. She created illustrations for ABC des Tracas with Matthias Arégui as well as the children’s book Les Illuminations D’Albert Einstein. Her work has also appeared in Le Monde, XXI, Libération and Le TigreShe lives in France.

Details of French Edition
Avant Après

Albin Michel Jeunesse, 2013, Paris, France