More Po-Mo picture books (Picture book roundup 10)


I’ve been fascinated with postmodern picture books ever since I took a course in children’s books back in college. Since then I’ve been building up my collection of po-mo picture books, and I’ve now got over 20 of them, mostly from rummaging through bargain bins.

I love how po-mo picture books challenge the reader to look at things in a different way, offering an enjoyable experience to both the young reader, the parent reading to the child, and even an older reader randomly picking up the book and flicking through the pages.

The multiplicity of meanings also encourages creativity and imagination in constructing the meaning of the text or illustrations, as well as the interest to reread a book.

I also marvel at the writers and illustrators’ creativity in taking the craft of picture books one step further,  defying convention and structure

I have several books in this picture book roundup: The Story of a Little Mouse Trapped in a Book by Monique Felix; Wolves by Emily Gravett; Zoom and Re-Zoom by Istvan Banyai; Bamboozled by David Legge; and Pinocchio the Boy, or Incognito in Collodi by Lane Smith (books 175-180 for 2009).

(In case you missed it, I previously discussed the characteristics of po-mo picture books in the post I did on The Three Little Pigs.)

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Picture books make me smile

Books 18 and 19 for 2009

Got two new books for my picture book collection – I Hate to Read! by Rita Marshall, illustrated by Etienne Delessert, and the 1991 Caldecott Medal awardee Black & White by David Macaulay. I tell myself I collect them for reference in illustration, but I can’t deny I have fun reading them too :)

I mooched I Hate to Read! from fellow Flipper akaShy because the title was intriguing, and the illustrations appealed to me.

The story is about Victor Dickens, a kid who hates to read. One day, as he pretends to read a book so that he could watch TV, characters start jumping out to invite him to read: a crocodile in a white coat, a field mouse, a peg-legged parrot, a white rabbit wearing black boots, a frog with a broken feather in his cap, and many more.
And then his visions get stranger and stranger until he felt sad that all the characters’ stories would be lost if nobody read them.

The story didn’t quite work for me, as it didn’t build up sufficiently to the conclusion. Victor’s transition from non-reader to reader was abrupt and confusing, and so it’s not very convincing.

Etienne Delessert’s illustrations, however, save the book from being just another picture book. The watercolor illustrations have a whimsical quality that charms from the get-go, and breathes life to comical characters. I especially love the field mouse with a cat in its backpack (it’s like the Totoro Catbus with mouse headlights!)

Check it out on google books

The second book in this selection is David Macaulay’s Black and White, which I’ve been in search of for some time now (I am collecting the Caldecotts).

It’s a po-mo picture book that was given so much thought to that it boggles the mind.

The title page greets you with a cryptic note: “This book appears to contain a number of stories that do not necessarily occur at the same time.”

Then, each spread is divided into four frames that tell what appear to be four different stories, illustrated in different styles: wash, comic, inked watercolor, and chunky paint.

The first story, on the upper left hand, is “Seeing Things,” depicting a boy on a train, whose trip is interrupted by a long delay. On the lower left is “Problem Parents,” showing a family’s life turned upside down when the kids’ perfectly normal parents come home wearing newpaper clothes. On the upper right, the third story is “A Waiting Game,” where a crowd of commuters waiting on the train platform get bored and decide to have fun with some newspapers. Finally, on the lower right, “Udder Chaos” follows an escaped convict hiding within a herd of cows.

The overlapping elements reveal that the four stories are part of another story — the convict hides in the cattle, which cross the tracks and cause the train’s delay, which the boy witnesses. At the station, waiting for the train makes the crowd desperate for entertainment, causing them to play with the newspapers. Among those in the crowd are the parents, who come home wearing newspapers, to the surprise of their children.

It’s not easy to decipher, and who’s to say these are the only interpretations of the story, as it depends on the reader’s imagination. I love how the book makes you think and pay attention to detail. In “Waiting Game” there is even a hidden story of a squirrel (smaller than my thumbnail) who joins in the merrymaking.

It’s an amazing effort, and a very nice way of opening up your mind to various possibilities.

My copies: I Hate To Read, hardcover, no dustjacket – mooched from akaShy. Black and White, rummaged at Book Sale for P95.

My rating: I Hate to Read, 3/5 stars; Black and White, 5/5 stars