[review] Ilja Karsikas: Amos and the Fog Tree

Ilja Karsikas
Amos ja sumupuu
Amos and the Fog Tree
Etana Editions 2017
ISBN 978-952-7105-10-8

Amos and the Fog Tree is an exceptionally strong reading experience, written and illustrated by Ilja Karsikas. The story tells what it is like when a dad gets depressed, vanishes into fog as it were. Some books have already been published about the same topic in Finland, by Sanna Tahvanainen and Sari Airola in Silva ja teeastiasto joka otti jalat alleen (’Silva and the Teaset that Ran Away’, Schildts, 2011), and by Sanna Tahvanainen and Jenny Lucander in Lohikäärmeunia (’Dragon Dreams, S&S, 2015). Karsikas’s picture book differs from these previous books in that all its characters are male. It is important that such a book exists also on dad’s depression.

©Ilja Karsikas_2016_Amos ja Sumupuu_kansi_v 3

In the book, depression is symbolized by a fog tree that grows in dad’s office. One possible reason for dad’s depression is his big work load. Dad is nowhere to be seen and he won’t even answer Amos when he calls him. All Amos can hear is a strange puffing noise. Fortunately, granddad has had some experience in dealing with fog trees. He has all the equipment needed and he also has the world’s greatest sniffer dog called Nuusku. Fully prepared, Amos and granddad set out to find dad.

The book is digitally illustrated, with bleak grey and blue illustrations and joyous yellow and orange tones taking turns. The fog tree is a huge blue-and-grey cloud. It is very easy to get lost in it. Little creatures, similar to ghosts, trolls and other grinning beings dwell in the fog. They are, however, so tiny that they cannot actually scare anyone. Amos and his granddad are accompanied by a little bright blue coloured bird with an orange beak, a sympathetic creature that looks like a strawberry and a small school of brave ants. These little creatures follow Amos, Amos’s dad and granddad experience the events of the book with them.

Before the rescue team finds dad, they face many signs of depression in the fog tree. The text does not use the word ’depression’ but talks instead of dad’s fatigue. Dad has not finished his breakfast and all his important belongings are lying around the branches of the tree. Dad has not even got dressed. ’I think, dad is so tired that he doesn’t know if it’s time to go to bed or wake up’, granddad says. The deeper into the fog they go, the thicker the fog gets. Just like Amos’s dad’s thoughts.

In the end Amos and granddad find the dad in the centre of the fog tree. Seeing Amos and Nuusku makes dad laugh and the fog starts to fade. Still, back at home, dad is very tired and has no appetite. Little by little, plenty of rest and the company of Amos and granddad make dad feel better and the fog tree gets shrunk to the size of a raisin.

Parent’s depression is a serious matter and it won’t go away quickly. Fortunately, in this book Amos does not have to manage it alone, he has his granddad to keep him safe. He comforts him and knows how to deal with fog trees. The book ends on a hopeful note, dad is smiling again.

Jutta Setälä


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