There are two more spring books that have caught my Caldecotty attention:
Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes
written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
illustrated by John Parra
To begin with, this book is supremely lovely. Of course, lots of books are lovely, and loveliness is not a particular criterion for Caldecott consideration. But let’s just put that out there. Parra’s figure work is warm and personal, simultaneously accessible and specific. His largely symmetrical composition affords the imagery some organizational clarity, making it especially easy on the eye (and enhancing the shape identification, to boot). But there is much to admire beyond the simple beauty. The color work is extraordinary. Parra sets vibrant reds and oranges against grayed-out blues and greens. The unexpected result, with its dramatic sense of light and shadow, enhances the sense of place. It feels like a hot day in the Mexican shade. The treatment of shapes is suitably sophisticated. Rhyming verse calls attention to one shape at a time, and while many of the shape in question are present for searching and finding, there are other shapes represented, too.
And if ever there was a book jacket optimized to accept a golden circle sticker, this is it. I mean, really.
written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Simon and Schuster, 2013
Illustrating a picture book about a famous artist is no small thing. How does the illustrator capture the essence of the artist’s style without resorting to mimicry, expressing without copying? Jeanette Winter makes it look easy. In this simple picture book biography of Henri Matisse she employs color to set Matisse’s artwork apart from its contextual environs, replicating the vibrant artwork with rich, saturated color and using a more reserved, pastel palette for the artist and his surroundings. She structures the story carefully, covering the first 70 years of his life in the first few pages and dedicating the balance of the book to the paper-cutting for which he is most celebrated today. Matisse made the technical discovery while recovering from a severe, debilitating illness, and Winter reflects its transformational power with a major compositional shift. The exposition unfolds with images in small, tight squares on a clean, buff ground. At the pivotal moment of discovery, when the artist finds his way to creation again, the images break across the entire spread, reaching beyond the edge of the page in expressive freedom. Most picture books contribute to the storytelling with representative imagery. Using the art itself to tell the story, in its structural design, adds layers of meaning to an already illuminating story. I’d call that excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.
Anyone out there excited about any 2013 American picture books?