The Cartographer’s Presence is illustrator Stephen Reed’s authorial debut and I was excited to get a look, and a read, of his new book. As an illustrator, I’ve been following Reed’s work for a while. He’s collaborated with other writers on several book projects over the years including two collaborations with author and storyteller Naomi Reed: (The Zookeeper 2016 and The Conductor 2019) and one with Nicholas R. Lindeback. On This Mountains (Lindeback 2019) is a powerful picture book about the gospel reaching unreached people groups and Stephen’s work is instrumental in communicating the themes contained. This new book, The Cartographer’s Presence, builds on Reed’s gentle and expressive style. The difference here is that for this book, Reed also contributes as author.
The Cartographer’s Presence tells the story of Arcos, a young artist who travels to a distant land to participate in a festival. Arcos is curious to learn more about the Cartographer – the one who mapped the world – and about his servant the Misaro’Deio. As he encounters discrimination and mistreatment in the city, he wonders whether the Cartographer’s care is real or whether it’s just tradition. Coming across a range of characters, each with differing expectations and expressions of faith, Arcos’ own faith is challenged until he meets an unexpected stranger and learns what the Cartographer’s presence really means.
In an author’s note at the back of the book, Reed explains that the festival Arcos attends is based on the Biblical Festival of Tabernacles. This adds a parable/allegorical aspect to the story that deepens its impact and I’d probably recommend readers flick to the author’s note before reading the story rather than the other way around. Although the book is heavily illustrated, and beautifully so (especially the wordless sequence in the final pages), I’m not sure it’s a middle grade read – even if that’s where the bookstores like to keep it. It’s more thoughtful than fast paced and would suit readers (or groups) interested in thinking through Biblical allegories, fantasy storytelling and ideas of faith. The Cartographer’s Prescence could also make a good resource for Christian studies lessons.
The Cartographer’s Prescence is a unique and interesting illustrated tale. It displays Reed’s skill as an artist, but also his heart for the gospel communicated it through story. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this talented creator in the future.
All the details you need:
Title: The Cartographer’s Presence
Written (and illustrated) by: Stephen Reed
Published by: Authentic Media
Available from The Wandering Bookseller.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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