There are times in my life that I have picked up children's books without having read reviews, without word of mouth recommendations, and knowing nothing of the author. I have bought them on a whim, drawn by some sort of force. Once or twice I've been disappointed but most of the time I'm always pleased and surprised by how good they are. I bought Tickets to Ride by Mark Rogalski on a whim. I saw the gorgeous cover, actually not the one above but an equally wonderful one. (I'll see if I can find an image.) I took the book home, not even opening the cover, because it was a bad day and I wanted to be surprised by it. Plus some bad days are greatly improved by buying a book. This book blew any other random purchase away. It easily became one of the prettiest picture books on my shelves.
This book is a visual feast. I mention the cover, which is unique in itself. Rogalski produced four different covers for the book based on four different page spreads. The book's full title is Tickets To Ride: An Alphabetic Amusement and it is a carnival romp through the alphabet with some of the most beautiful and strange rides ever imagined. Each ride is animal themed, like the Zebra Zepplin which graces the cover above, or the Bear shaped Bumper-Car. Each spread has one page covered with glorious illustration and the other half is covered with a rhyming verse about the ride. We are taken from the amusement park entrance all the way through the last ride, and a beautifully illustrated map of the park.
I can't even begin to say how incredible Rogalski's illustrations are. These whimsical creations are odd, sweet, and so much fun. The text that goes with them is bouncy but I was completely absorbed in the paintings. It was only when I got to the end that I discovered another secret of the book. Within each illustration is a number, 1-26, which diligent readers must go back and find. There is also, hidden within each page, a little robotic duck. Like the very popular I Spy series I loved going back through to find the duck and the number. Particularly since it allowed me to spend even more time with the strange and wonderful ride creations. This book is a illustrators dream. When looking into writing this I stopped by Rogalski's website, linked above, and noticed that he has another book called Dream Machines. Guess I'll be making a trip to the bookstore again tonight. Another beauty to grace my shelves.