MILK TEETH reviewed by Hipster Book Club

Milk Teeth

Hipster Book Club    |    Libby K. Hartigan    |    January 10, 2008

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad is not a traditional story—the stories here are told through drawings. While some drawings speak to each other, most stand alone, evoking strange, other-worldly narratives where delicate children seem lost in their thoughts. They eat flowers, hide from tigers, fall blindfolded into nothingness and recline among stacks of teacups like characters left out of Alice in Wonderland.

There are no teeth in Milk Teeth, or smiles. There is a series of visual poems whose language references birds, heads, and hair. The hair is sleek. It covers faces, wraps around necks, turns into castles, plants, and rabbits. There is longing, somberness, and dismay. Everyone is trapped somewhere and must accept it. Hair wraps around and around a huge head, where two thin girls are bound, their hands and legs hanging limply, though one clutches a rabbit by the ears.

After looking at them for a while, many of the images appear to have macabre elements, which may be why Morstad's work is compared to that of illustrator Edward Gorey (best known for the melodramatic credit sequence of the BBC's Mystery! series). Clusters of men in suits sprout from flowers while from nearby blooms, ominous wolves peer. An elegant flapper gazes into the air with ennui while diaphanous curtains blow around her, and from one finger, blood drips and pools on the floor. A swarm of angry bees emerges from a girl's ear. A girl sits up in bed, seemingly surprised that her arms and legs have turned into long fluffy ermine-like tails which spill over and entwine on the floor.

The colors are beautiful, like hand-tinted sepia photos. The intricate detail suggests many hours spent in the sumptuous palace of Morstad's imagination, and the imagery feels irrationally right. This little book is a pleasure.

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