“Cherry & Olive” (Russian edition “Вишенка и Клюква” shown here) is a story of a child’s loneliness and longing for friendship and inclusion. It is about manifesting one’s dreams by responding to life with love and kindness even if life does not always appear to reciprocate..
Cherry is a chubby shy girl. Her school peers often laugh at her and she has no courage to stand up for herself, rather enduring her toxic school days. She likes Angelo who is the centre of everyone’s attention but dares not speak or glance at him and always hides from view whenever he is around.
Change comes about when bullies try to offend Cherry’s newly found four-legged friend, an equally chubby and wonderfully wrinkly Olive. Suddenly, Cherry finds the strength to stand up for her dog and protect her. But wait, is it her dog? Cherry wished that it was. Unfortunately, Olive is the dog from the shelter where Cherry’s father works. The child dreads the day when Olive might be claimed by her rightful owner… Can you guess who that owner might be?
This book is Benjamin Lacombe’s diploma work for his graduate studies at École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD). It has been published as a picture book by Seuil Jeunesse in 2006. In 2007 it was published by Walker Books in the US and in the same year was named the best book of the year by Time Magazine. This has marked the launch of Benjamin Lacombe’s career as one of the most successful illustrators known and loved all over the world. Most of his books have been widely translated into foreign languages. Russian audiences are fond of Benjamin’s work so you’d often find books illustrated by him in Russian.
Throughout his illustrious career Benjamin Lacombe has contributed to fabulous picture books written by other authors as well as penned and illustrated his own books. All his books usually ends up being bestsellers. He has illustrated “The Notre-Dame de Paris” by Victor Hugo, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass”, Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz”, Prosper Mérimée’s “Carmen” and Pierre’s Loti’s “Madame Butterfly” to name a few. Books written and illustrated by him include his beautiful take on historical figures in “Frida” and “Marie-Antoinette” or stories like “Ondina” and “Butterfly Lovers”, again just to name a few.
I love how Lacombe plays with angles and perspectives in “Cherry and Olive” and how that makes me relate to the illustrated scenes. Both Cherry’s room interior and the street view are brought into one frame in the image below and I feel immersed in contemplating what Cherry sees out of the window. Seeing the other girls teasing Cherry through the frame of her bent arm firmly clasping the dog leash makes me feel her resolve to stand up to the bullies at last. Having witnessed her strength I feel stronger myself. Cherry joining the characters of “Around the World in Eighty Days” on an imaginary balloon flight makes me agree with her sentiment that “books are way more interesting than kids”.
This book is a prime example of Benjamin Lacombe’s talent in narrative and visual story telling. Enjoy browsing his first story below.