Sign Off (Stephen Savage)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sign Off by Stephen Savage, a wordless picture book imagining of the secret lives of road sign figures.

As twilight descends, the silhouetted deer on a road sign cannot resist: it stretches out of the sign to nibble the leaves hanging overhead. The farmer from the “tractor crossing” sign appears in the neighboring cornfield, plowing up the dirt. Other silhouettes begin to stir as well: a figure in a wheelchair, two children crossing the street, a road worker with shovel, and more. The “child at play” – after a brief stop at the swingset – begins to lead the others across the landscape to the top of a hill, where another sign waits (a traffic-signal warning sign). The silhouettes work together to remove the yellow circle from the sign, then launch it into the sky, where it becomes the rising sun. The friends celebrate their success, then return to their signs as the dawn begins.

As a concept, this definitely has appeal – who doesn’t love a “secret life of everyday objects” story? And the first few pages – which alternate between showing the sign as normal, then with the figure(s) interacting with the outside environment on the next – has some genuinely cute moments. But it’s from there the story begins to stumble. The adventure to the hilltop goes on a surprisingly long time, and creates confusing questions about its reveal – do they do this every night? Does the sun go back into the sign when it sets? How? – that don’t feel resolved by the book’s rather abrupt ending. And while the blocky, stylized art is clearly meant to emulate the silhouettes’ style, it does so at the sacrifice of visual interest. Savage is great at creating dynamic visuals in his retro-inspired style, such as in his Where’s Walrus? series, but here it only comes off as bland. So while this one poses a great “what-if”, the result was just not our cup of tea.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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