Reviews for The Eyes and the Impossible

by Dave Eggers

Publishers Weekly
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In this exuberant illustrated novel by previous collaborators Eggers and Harris (What Can a Citizen Do?), high-spirited narrator Johannes is an “unkept and free” dog entrusted by the Keepers of the Equilibrium—three penned Bison who oversee the park where they all live—to be the park’s Eyes. Aided by a team of “comrades, allies” known as the Assistant Eyes (seagull Bertrand, squirrel Sonja, pelican Yolanda, and raccoon Angus), Johannes reports each day’s occurrences to the Bison, including anything that might upset the Equilibrium. When construction activity is detected, Johannes encounters “rectangles full of gorgeous commotion”—an art display that transfixes him, leading to his being leashed. After a dramatic cooperative rescue devised by the Assistant Eyes, Johannes realizes the “glory of liberation” and determines to free the Bison from their enclosure. Studded with strong opinions about the park’s residents (“The ducks know nothing”), a quick-moving first-person voice melds the dog’s background, beliefs, and observations. Eggers crafts a marvelous, fully fleshed protagonist in Johannes, who is at once an ebullient braggart, a faithful and intrepid operative, and a drolly humorous reporter whose compassionate narration delivers a rousing tale of community, joyful self-reliance, and the pleasures of running very, very fast. Aligning with themes of art and perspective, Harris contributes illustrations of Johannes as added to full-page reproductions of classical landscapes. Ages 8–12. (May)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A wild dog who serves as the Eyes for Bison living in a park enclosure devises a plan to free them. Exuberant, observant dog Johannes runs daily throughout the park, which is visited by humans, reporting to Freya, Meredith, and Samuel, three old Bison who are the Keepers of the Equilibrium. Johannes and other Assistant Eyes—a sea gull, a squirrel, a pelican, and a raccoon—describe an art museum being built in the park, a “building full of chaos-rectangles.” Johannes finds it captivating, leading to his capture by humans—and subsequent rescue by the other Eyes in a demonstration of interspecies cooperation. This gives him the idea to free the Bison. The appearance of goats, who have been brought in to eat weeds, provides a friend, a revelation, and a new plan and purpose: “to pull off the impossible.” Johannes’ first-person narration is an interesting mix of poetic language, sophisticated vocabulary, philosophy, humor, hyperbole, and both short declarative and run-on sentences; his estimations of time, size, and quantity are particularly exaggerated. Johannes’ loyalty, friendship, and commitment to a noble purpose, even as his sense of self shifts, the stakes are raised, and last-minute changes to the plan occur, make him an admirable character. The artwork consists of double-page spreads reproducing magnificent fine art landscapes into which Harris has seamlessly inserted Johannes, cleverly adapting to each painter’s style and color palette. One remarkable creature vividly shows readers that “there is so, so much to see.” (author’s note, sources) (Fiction. 9-14) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Johannes has always lived his life as a free dog in a vast park by the sea. Three captive elderly bison are the Keepers of the Equilibrium and overseers of the land, and they’ve dubbed Johannes “the Eyes,” as his agility and observant gaze allow him to notice the park’s happenings and report back to the bison. An assortment of wild animals assists Johannes on his daily intel gatherings, and he’s content in his dear friendships and freedom. But change is afoot: an enormous building containing mesmerizing rectangles is being built, a herd of mysterious creatures has set up shop in a field, and a heroic act brings Johannes intense human scrutiny that impedes his duties as the Eyes. It will require all of Johannes’ ingenuity, kindness, and speed to navigate the new developments while maintaining his precious independence. The utterly delightful book is narrated by a distinctly canine voice similar to the narrator’s in Eggers’ short story “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned,” and though Johannes is prone to matter-of-fact bragging and hilarious exaggeration, he’s also capable of profound introspection and appreciation of life’s wonders. Eggers touches on deep topics with a light hand, effortlessly building suspense and a wonderful sense of adventure. A merry reminder to face the truth about the world and ourselves with compassion, curiosity, and joy.