Spanish artist Guridi illustrates the power of words and the magic of storytelling in Once Upon a Time, a delightful, monochromatic picture book

Guridi, Once upon a Time

Published in English in 2017 by Tate Publishing (first published in Spanish in 2016), 32p


Bard, as his name suggested, was a man that loved words from the very beginning. He lived in a village where people appreciated his talent to play with words and transform “the most ordinary situations into unforgettable stories”. They often went to see Bard, give him words, hoping he would turn their dull life into something new and exciting.

They gave him the strangest words they could think of such as ‘PLATYPUS’ and ‘KALEIDOSCOPE’. They gave him hundreds and thousands of synonyms and millions and billions of adjectives. Bard would transform their words into stories that carried them all away to extraordinary places.

Once Upon a Time is a book that speaks about people’s need to listen to stories and to have their own stories told. Therefore words become an essential tool to stimulate their imagination and to keep it awake. Human beings are a species that uses words for emotional and intellectual development. Bard becomes a tool and a symbol; he is the definition of a good storyteller, an advocate for the importance of linguistic value in people’s lives, a promoter of the formative role of words for children’s and grown ups’s becoming.

But one day, out of the blue, Bard stopped speaking. His silence brought utter confusion in the small community.


Some thought it was the end of the world.


All the villagers were concerned about their poet’s condition, feeling they were about to lose a mentor and an entertainer.

The mood in the village was very blue. How were they going to live without stories? No one knew what to do. Some tried to tell their own stories but the words didn’t fit or wouldn’t come out.

But Bard remained silent. […]

They wanted to give him new words, as they had always done, but the only words they could come up with were ‘DULL’, ‘BOREDOM’ and ‘SADNESS’.

The only person that seemed to understand this period of silence and distance was Ballad, the musician. Softly, he began playing his cello, hoping to give Bard time to meditate, to build-up new stories and to encourage him to embrace the world again.


The melody flowed through the village. It entered Bard’s ears and then from his mouth came the most unexpected word…


Complement Once Upon a Time with Lemony Snicket’s and Maira Kalman’s 13 Words and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a great book on writing and life.

This blog is a Book Depository affiliate, which means that if you use my links to buy books on their site I get a small percentage of the selling price, which is not much but is really appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s