A beautifully illustrated picture book about a party that creates our solar system, The Jubilarians starts slow but delivers a memorable payoff.
The smoothly rhyming story opens with mysterious invitations going out for a jubilee “at the top of the sky.” One by one, ten attendees are introduced—the first wearing pearls and a fiery dress, another with “cloud spirals” trailing from her wrists, the final two just introduced as “Blue” and “Aquamarine.”
The party starts with awkward mingling, but then a conductor arrives. As the orchestra’s performance begins, the narrative reveals that the guests have never heard music before, and they call for the music to be louder and begin to dance. As they dance, the pearl necklace breaks, and pearls cascade around them. The illustrations reveal that the party was the genesis of the universe, with the pearls serving as stars and guests standing in as the sun, eight planets, and Earth’s moon.
The concept feels fresh, and the guest descriptions are especially fun to link to their planets once the twist is revealed. However, the illustrations make the biggest mark. The colors are bold, the imagery carries motion and feeling, and the chaos of the dance is particularly lovely, with mist, smoke and stardust scattered across the scene.
The story could have been a bit tighter. Each turn feels just one or two lines too long, slowing the tale without adding new meaning as the guests are introduced, the music begins, and the dancing commences. There are also minor flaws in the story’s buildup: for example, there’s an orchestra waiting as the party starts, but the guests don’t seem intrigued by this, despite never having encountered music.
These are mostly quibbles. Though overlong, The Jubilarians delivers a neat little mystery whose revelation will delight readers of all ages.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.