In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Books in which the reader is smarter than the characters

I somehow haven't managed to put together an introducing-myself entry, so I thought I'd just jump right in. Suffice it to say I'm Annie's aunt, the mother of two college students who have always loved books, a former journalist, and have been selling children's books in a toy store for the past 11 years.

I've been thinking about pre-school picture books which give the reader the opportunity to be smarter than the characters. My absolute favorite in this category is Piggie Pie, by Margie Palatini. I don't know if you and Eleanor have hit this one, yet, Annie -- it's even got Wizard of Oz references. Witch in search of pigs for piggie pie comes to a farm to catch some. Pigs all get into costumes of other animals -- cows, ducks etc -- and deny the presence of pigs. We can see the piggie-tails sticking out of their disguises, but the witch never gets it. Really delightful.

Others with good hidden visuals: Where's the Dragon? by Jason Hook is more of an I-Spy sort of book. A boy and his grandfather set out in search of dragons. It turns out they're camouflaged on every page -- the pictures are raised slightly so that you can feel them as well as see them -- but Grandpa never catches on. At the end, the book tells you how many are hidden.

Man on the Moon (A Day in the Life of Bob) by Simon Bartram is about a guy who commutes to the moon in order to tell the tourists that there's no such thing as aliens. While he's telling them, of course, little green people are popping up all over the background.

And in a different, un-wacky vein, there's Jan Brett's Beauty and the Beast. The servants have all been enchanted into animals, but in every picture where an enchanted person appears, there's a tapestry on the wall depicting the people in their unenchanted state. The text never mentions it -- just requires a sharp-eyed child to spot them.

As this blog goes on, I'm sure we'll get around to introducing ourselves a bit more, and waxing a little more philosophical from time to time. But here's a start. Over to you, Annie.


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