Thursday, March 24, 2016

Does Picture Perfect Help Children Read?

I've read and reviewed quite a lot of picture books recently. Long years ago - I'm not counting how many - I read them just for pleasure, not for review. And sometime in between I read those pictures for sons as well. Lots of pictures. Lots of books.

I remember "reading" picture books with no words. Sons would help me tell the story - well, except for oldest son who determined it wasn't a story if it didn't have printed sets of letters in it. The books were hard work though. The boys would imagine all sorts of events that weren't quite intended on the page, then we'd turn to the next, miss the point, and start over again (or throw the book across the room - they were boys, of course).

Then there were books where the pictures didn't quite fit the tale. "Mom, it said he played with elephants and giraffes, so why are there no elephants in the picture?" Perhaps they'd gone to the bathroom? "Mom, that's not right."

Some books had mass-produced pictures mass-repeated over different backgrounds. "Mom, I saw that monkey on the other page. Look, he's just the same. It's not a real picture. It's a copy." Today I read picture books with computer images and hear that same refrain repeated in my head. But does it matter, or was it just my kids who viewed things so strangely?

Best, in my opinion, are  books where the pictures can easily add to the tale, never detract from it, please  child and parent both together, and are genuinely beautiful. Those are the books I kept when the kids grew up. They're the ones I'll save and share with grandkids one day (I hope, anyway!).

And these are the picture books I've read this week. Grab a coffee. Pull up a chair. Find a grandkid to share!

First, and most beautiful, is Feathers for Peacock by Jacqueline Jules, a gorgeously illustrated and nicely imaginative tale of how the peacock got his tail. It's a new story, pleasingly flavored with world-wide myths, and very smoothly told. The illustrations of naked birds are great, inviting kids to guess which bird is which. And the lesson in kindness is wise and neat. Enjoy with some smooth well-balanced three-star coffee.

Me Too by Lea Kirshenberg illustrated by Bhangga Santoso has a nice lesson as well, for kids (parents or dogs) who always think the grass is greener somewhere else. The story's long enough to hold attention and be worth reading. The pictures are bright and stylized. And the text uses rhyme without being sing-song. It's fun. Enjoy with a bright, lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

I've read some more Midge and Moo books by Kerry McQuaide too. Moo Knows Numbers is a nice introduction to numbers, with plenty of objects for small children to point at and count, and plenty of picture play with number shapes. It's a short, fun addition to the series. Then Moo goes Missing in a quick short peekaboo adventure with a comfortable ending. Enjoy both of these with some mild, crisp one-star coffee.

Which books would you choose?

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