Mini-Review: Moletown, Torben Kuhlmann (2015)

October 2nd, 2015 7:00 am by mad mags

Stunning Artwork, but the Ending Comes a Little Too Soon

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book from review through NetGalley.)

The story of Moletown begins with a lone mole, who tunneled underneath a lush, wild meadow. He was quickly joined by other moles. Content to live simply at first, development slowly spun out of control – and before they knew it, the green fields above their heads had been reduced to barren earth. Meanwhile, the tunnels below grew crowded, the air choked by cars and industry. (Much of which has a wonderful steampunk vibe.) On the brink of collapse, the moles saved their underground paradise at the 11th hour, thanks to a series of green initiatives.

The artwork here is absolutely breathtaking. DO NOT READ THIS ON A KINDLE. Seriously, you’d be downplaying the best part. Kuhlmann’s tiny mole protagonists are simply adorable, and his cityscapes are quite lovely. (Almost deceptively so, given the moral of the story.) He manages to take a mostly monochromatic landscape and imbue it with life and excitement. The story’s presented as a history of Moletown, complete with scrapbook-style pages at the beginning and end. If you can, spring for the hardcover edition: Moletown is a piece of artwork that’s meant to be held, stroked, and savored. Otherwise read it on a laptop, iPad, or similar: anything with generous screen size and color capabilities. A Kindle doesn’t come anywhere close to doing Kuhlmann’s art justice.

Less impressive are the solutions promised in the final pages. The text is quite sparse – there’s only six sentences in the entire book – and Kuhlmann lets his illustrations do the talking. For the most part, this works magically. But the end could have been a little longer, I think. The moles’ climate change initiatives are presented as snapshots at the end of the scrapbook; those positioned on the top and bottom are cut off, and others are partially obscured by overlapped photos, such that they’re difficult to fully make out. Best I can tell, the solutions include wind energy, planting flowers, and preserving green space – not exactly a recipe for change. (The ending is so abrupt at first I thought my review copy was damaged or incomplete!)

Buy it for the gorgeous artwork, but brainstorm some additional talking points for storytime with the kiddos.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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