Nick Bantock,
The Griffin & Sabine Trilogy
(Chronicle, 1991, 1992, 1993)

Even as an adult, I'm fascinated with picture books, especially pop-up books. There's something infinitely pleasing about having a book "come to life" in 3-D. Nick Bantock has created a "grown-up" version of pop-up books in his series about two people, worlds apart, whose lives are combined by art and love.

Griffin & Sabine (1991)

The first book of the series is subtitled, "An Extraordinary Correspondence." Extraordinary doesn't even begin to describe the thought-provoking postcards and letters that reveal the story of Griffin Moss, an English artist, and Sabine Strohem, the woman who can "see" his paintings even though she lives an ocean away from him. Griffin eventually becomes unable to handle the relationship, questioning whether Sabine even exists, and disappears. From the formalness of their first postcards to the revealing intimacy of their final letters, Bantock's art gives the reader a delightfully tactile tour of their developing relationship. Bantock's art is amazing; his style ranges from looser "nature" prints for Sabine's postcards to precise, whimsical oil and acrylic paintings for Griffin's correspondence.

Sabine's Notebook (1992)

The second book of the series opens with the two lovers changing worlds. Sabine travels to London to meet Griffin, only to discover that he has left in search of her. Griffin's letters to her detail his travels, in search of an understanding of what has happened between the two of them. In addition to the bizarre animals and dark landscapes of the postcards and letters are sketches from Sabine's notebook while she is staying in London. The mystery deepens as the lovers cross paths again, each unaware of the other's presence.

The Golden Mean (1993)

The final book of the series details the increasing frustration Griffin and Sabine feel at not being able to physically meet. Despite the polarity of their relationship and the interest of Victor Frolatti, a sinister man interested in their telepathy. The two decide to meet on middle ground, so to speak, and nothing is heard from them for years ... until another mysterious postcard is sent.

Bantock's original format gives the reader the guilty pleasure of reading someone else's mail. As is the case with most illustrated books, the pictures are layered with symbolic meanings and textures. Bantock takes as his inspiration the poem, "The Second Coming," by W.B. Yeats. Lines from the poem introduce each of the three books, and another line serves as a chilling summation of the final book in the series. The Griffin & Sabine Trilogy is a unique addition to the literary field, and begs to be read over and over.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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