The Little Barbarian is the kind of fantasy that entertains both children and
adults. In this brilliant wordless picture book Renato Moriconi, a Brazilian just
like me, gives freedom for the readers to play with their imagination. He
starts by choosing the vertical format, exploring the book as an object and
wittily incorporating it into the narrative.
The little barbarian mounts his mighty horse and starts his journey. Up and
down he goes through the pages effortlessly slashing and slaying every
beast. Up he goes, dragons! Down he goes, sea monsters! Slash and
slay! With a comic haughty posture and superior expression, the little
barbarian defeats beast after beast until he finally faces the only thing that
can stop him: a twist.
With a joyful and simplistic watercolour, Moriconi invites the reader to fill the
negative space on the page with their imagination. A very well thought
narrative process that is essential for this book becaaaaause…
… it is exactly what the little barbarian has been doing all the way. This
becomes clear when the horse stops and a big boss parent appears to take
the little barbarian off the ride, a merry-go-round one. We realise then that
the book explores children’s amazing ability of cancelling the world around
them to replace it with their powerful imagination.
Just as easily as the barbarian slays the monsters, this child composes his
very own world of adventures. His horse and the ride are the only elements
from the outside world which are invited into the play. The best part of the
ending is that just like a merry-go-round we can jump right back on the
horse again for another ride — and every time I do I imagine more!
This worldwide awards winner is one of my ever favourite picture books and I am sure it will be yours too.