In an age-old story of keeping up with the Joneses, author Germano Zullo has created a children’s picture book that follows the fate of two rival neighbors as they compete to build the most extravagant house imaginable. The original edition of “Sky High,” written in French and published in Switzerland, has been translated for an English audience with the original illustations by Albertine, who also partnered with Zullo on the critically acclaimed work “Little Bird.” The story centers around Agenor-Agobar Poirier des Chapelles and Willigis Kittycly Junior, two men of means who lavishly adorn their respective mansions with add-ons and interiors.
The competition starts out small—a solid gold door here, a diamond-inlaid marble column there—but quickly spirals out of control as architects and construction crews are brought in to address the questionable physics of the buildings. The zany tale is full of a sense of anticipation that will enthrall kids; meanwhile, adults can mine ideas for their own domestic renovations.
Zullo’s spare use of language and Albertine’s detailed sketches are used to catalogue each of the items as they are added to the houses. The structures are filled with tennis courts, murano glass chandeliers, curiosity cabinets—even the odd Bengal tiger finds its way in via helicopter. The spirited competition comes to a grinding halt as Monsieur Poirier des Chapelles topples his own home while attempting to mount a family flag.
Beyond an entertaining story, Sky High is a grand experiment in book design. The height of the book and facing spreads are essential to telling the story, making this one book unfit for digital publication. Copies of “Sky High” are available from Chronicle Books and on Amazon.
Images of the book by James Thorne