September 13, 2016


Have you ever seen one of those accordion books that folds out into one giant story? They're not very common anymore, but these beautiful books are called leporellos. They're the perfect choice for visual storytelling because they are printed and folded accordion-pleat style which allows for a 3-D experience of the book.

Illustrators develop leporellos in different ways, utilizing its unique structure to fit a variety of purposes. Ping Zhu, for example, wordlessly recreates the story of Swan Lake (Flying Eye Books, 2014) so that it can literally be connected at both ends: one side shows a theater full of spectators watching the ballet and the other shows the dancers getting ready and more of the behind-the-scenes moments. Since the stories run in parallel, the ends can be connected to essentially show what's happening in all the areas around the building. It's beautiful.

Compared to Zhu, Yelena Bryksencova and Joydeb Chitrakar use the structure of the leporello in a different way in their respective books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Frances Lincoln, 2015) and The Enduring Ark (Tara Books, 2012). Rather than showing two stories in parallel, Bryksencova and Chitrakar opt to tell longer stories--readers must flip the book halfway through in order to complete the story.

Because both sides of the book are needed to complete the story--and we therefore have to flip the book halfway through--it becomes more interactive, and a fantastic way to follow the visual narrative. 

Albertine's wordless La Rumeur de Venise (La Joie de lire, 2010) is a fantastical account of a game of telephone, where rumors of a man catching a fish escalate to that of a man catching a mermaid by the time rumor reaches the other end of the city. Albertine focuses solely on one timeline--there are no illustrations on the backside--which allows readers to zoom in on a series of connected moments and visually experience the evolution of a rumor.

Clémentine Sourdais uses the same idea as Albertine in the sense that there is only one side to the story (ironically) of Le Petit Chaperon rouge (Little Gesalten, 2014), but there is a very strict purpose to ignoring the backside. Sourdais' illustrations are actually cutouts, which makes opening the book and propping it up even more of an imperative. Not only do we get the illustrations, we also get the silhouettes from the cutouts, enhancing that 3D feeling: it's like the illustrations are jumping right off the page.

Leporellos are such a beautiful way to tell a story--visual and textual--and their varied styles allow for a world of imagination!

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