Paisley Invasion by Alicia Czechowski
Winner of the 2022 North Street Book Prize for Graphic Novel & Memoir
Extraterrestrial beings in paisley form arrive on Planet Earth. Seemingly benign, Paisleys proceed to invade human spaces with little regard for decorum, or existing décor. Confronted with swarms of Paisleys, people watching TV, dog-walking, or showering are variously intrigued, terrified, or enraged. Humanity is faced with a conundrum: Why have Paisleys come to Earth, and what will be the outcome of their peculiarly strange visitation?
Formatted as a coloring book, Paisley Invasion is a story presented in a sequence of images that entice the reader to "read" between the lines, and outside the lines, too, to create a unique narrative. You are invited to spin-out and color-in the provocative fantasy that awaits within its covers.
From the North Street critique by Jendi Reiter:
While the vibe is definitely Summer of Love record album covers, not haunted Edwardian mansions and silent movie stills, I recognized the same spirit in Paisley Invasion as in Gorey's enigmatic Les Passementeries Horribles, a wordless book in which monstrous tassels stalk unsuspecting ladies and gentlemen. The mood of both books balances on a razor's edge between comical and sinister. You laugh, but glance nervously over your shoulder, in case one of those ornate blobs is coming for you. The absurdity can't quite dispel the tension that has no rational cause—how much harm could those things do?
It's the uncanny, all by itself, that spooks us. These floating objects have no faces for us to read their emotions, yet they seem conscious and determined. We can't understand how they could be alive, let alone what they want. Wisely, Czechowski doesn't privilege one human reaction over another. We are free to add our interpretations to the story when we color it in, like the illustrations in the Anti-Coloring Books that were deliberately incomplete so that children could make their own drawings.