Bookmark Monday: Downside up and back round again

If you like optical illusions and tessellations, you might find D.B. Johnson’s Palazzo Inverso fascinating.

A story about an apprentice named Mauk, his job is to help the Master design and build a grand Palazzo. Every day is the same, and on an ordinary day like any other, Mauk wakes up, and goes through the motions like he always does.  But something strange is afoot – the bricklayers are spilling bricks on the ceiling and workers are falling down stairs, the water in the fountain is falling up instead of down and everything appears all mixed up.

The Master blames Mauk for all the mayhem. But Mauk only sharpens the pencils, he isn’t allowed to draw.

Except…at times when the Master was looking out the window, Mauk might have turned the drawing round just a tiny bit and the Master never having noticed this, never realized what a strange Palazzo he was drawing.

This is a continuously looping story, which means you read it from the front to back, and then turn the book upside-down (and see what happens with the picture!) and read from the back all the way to the front again. Great fun!

Notes to the parent: 

  1. For more supplemental activities on optical illusions and tessellations, readers based in Singapore should check out the “Mathematics Everywhere and Everyday” and “The Mind’s Eye” sections at the Singapore Science Centre.
  2. You can also click here for an online version of the story.  But seriously – the print version is a lot more engaging, and allows you to take your time to pore over the intricacies of the pictures.  Which I still haven’t got enough of. 🙂

Excerpt from D.B. Johnsons’s website:

The apprentice Mauk is an entirely fictional character who takes his nickname and his inspiration from the work of Dutch artist M. C. Escher (1898-1972). Escher’s skill at playing with perspective and tricking people into seeing his version of three–dimensional space made him world famous.                   

In a work called Ascending and Descending, Escher drew stairs that lead down and around a building’s inner courtyard, yet appear to go back and end where they began. These endless loops going nowhere became his trademark. He was fascinated by stairs and realized that with a few carefully drawn steps he could take a person out of the real world and into his world of the impossible.    

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