Hopper and Wilson


Written and Illustrated by Maria van Lieshout

Philomel Books, 2011

Hopper and Wilson looked out over the big blue sea. And wondered.

“What,” Hopper asked his little friend Wilson, “do you think it’s like at the end of the world?”

The plot in a nutshell: Two friends set sail in search of the end of the world, but encounter trouble and separation before learning an important lesson.

If ‘adorable’ is not an adjective you enjoy using to describe your favorite picture books, then you should probably steer clear of this one. The two main characters (Hopper the elephant and Wilson the mouse) appear to be stuffed toys (judging from the stitches up their backs) who are best friends, and the story starts with them sitting on a pier with their cactus, wondering about the world’s end. Hopper believes there’s a staircase to the moon there and Wilson thinks there’s a massive supply of lemonade. Their curiosity leads them to a sea voyage (in a newspaper boat) with only their red balloon to accompany them. A stormy sea separates them and Wilson searches for Hopper, finally finding him by following a bird holding their balloon string. Together they sail on until they reach the end of their journey.

If you have a friend, a balloon AND a cactus, what more could you need?

If you have a friend, a balloon AND a cactus, what more could you need?

Author/illustrator Maria van Lieshout really makes you care about these characters. I found myself genuinely concerned when Wilson sees that Hopper has fallen out of the boat and even more relieved and happy when they are reunited. The book information states that the illustrations were “created with watercolors, ink, collage, colored pencil, crayon, a smudge of acrylics and some technology to pull it all together.” I love the book’s artwork, which includes many double-page pictures. The drawings are simple, but they convey a great deal of warmth and emotion.

It’s always good to come back home after a trip, but there’s something special about that feeling of coming home after a trip where something went wrong. My husband and I once drove home from Disney World while we were both sick and wound up having to change a flat tire in the rain. When we got back to Raleigh, our house was the most comforting thing we had ever seen. Ms. Van Lieshout captures that feeling really well when our two heroes come back home, happy to have discovered something special about the end of the world.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, when you travel with a good friend, the voyage truly can be the destination.


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