Animals have very full lives that humans never see. Johannes the dog introduces readers to his life in a bustling and vibrant urban park in the immersive middle-grade animal adventure The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris, the team behind Her Right Foot and What Can a Citizen Do?
Johannes plays a critical role in the urban park in which he lives: he acts as "the Eyes" for the "rulers" of the park, three wise old Bison. The Bison, who are penned, depend on the Eyes for information so they can guide the park's carefully balanced Equilibrium. Johannes, running fast "like light," spends his days gathering news of the resident animals and the human visitors. When odd, entrancing symbols appear, and a new species is introduced to the park, Johannes and the other animals must work together to maintain balance.
Eggers brings to life an animal world that exists alongside our own for a thought-provoking examination of identity, belonging, and freedom. Johannes and his animal companions are not anthropomorphic creatures or humans in sheep's clothing--they behave as (we assume) animals would in a human world, if we were privy to their conversations and thoughts. Shawn Harris inserts beautiful paintings of Johannes into "classical landscapes by artists long departed," such as Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña's In the Forest (backmatter includes a full list of artworks). Harris's illustrations give readers a glimpse of various parts of the park, and grants the book a timeless feel. The Eyes and the Impossible is compelling and heartfelt, destined to be read again and again. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer