The illustrations are breathtaking, which is why this book was a Caldecott Honor picture book for 2014. It’s a “Harold and the Purple Crayon” all grown-up for children old enough to think about the story and make predictions about what will happen next.
The illustrations show two worlds; the “real” world is drawn in many shades of sepia with just a jolt or two of color, hinting to the reader that certain items may be important later in the story. And there is the magical world the main character escapes into -- a world filled with rich color and adventure.
The use of white space is brilliant. Some pages are filled with rich, vibrant watercolors while others intentionally have a white background.
Because there is no text, the reader must infer what is going on -- in the beginning a lonely girl has no one to play with at home. Her mother is busy cooking and talking on the phone, her father is working on the computer, her sister is playing on a tablet.
So the lonely girl goes to her room, and when the sleeping cat gets up to leave, left behind is a bright red crayon. Using the red crayon, the girl draws a door and escapes into another world -- a world with exquisite bright greens and a magical forest with hanging blue lanterns and lights above a river.
She reaches a dock and draws a bright red boat to ride on down the river to a huge walled city with cupolas and bridges and parapets. The adventure continues and the girl finally sees men in what looks like a steampunk flying machine trying to catch a beautiful purple bird.
Compassion prevails and when the girl rescues the bird and is imprisoned herself, something else magical happens.
I love books where the beginning is important but you don’t realize it until the end. On the first page, the reader’s eye is drawn to the girl and her red scooter sitting on the front step. One tends not to notice that on the copyright page there is a boy with a purple crayon looking out at the sky. It brings the end of the story back to the beginning, and the story becomes a wonderful, magical circle.
Brilliant and beautifully executed; children will love it and parents and teachers will love sharing it with them, making predictions and perhaps even having the children make their own circle book.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, for review purposes.
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