Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Reader's Diary #14- Edith Thacher Hurd (author), Robin Brickman (Illustrator): Starfish

Yes, I'm reviewing another children's book. I want to tell someone about this one though, because I was very impressed. Primarily I was impressed by the illustrations. These watercolour collages were just beautiful. I'm not a fan of pastel type pictures for children's books, I think they should be a little more vibrant and eye-catching than that. And though the picture I have to the left doesn't do it justice, these were great. When there are so many vibrant colours beneath the sea, it deserves to have some of that reflected in the pages. Robin Brickman did a superb job.
The text itself was well done too. A lot of repetition and simple vocabulary makes this a good choice for an early reader, someone struggling with print and needing the predictability and reinforcement to increase their abilities and confidence. While it's not filled with enough facts to do a book report, I still learned a thing or two as an adult!
The format was well put together as well. I find a lot of informational books aimed at young readers are too busy, way too many sidebars and complicated diagrams for early readers. This book didn't have those. Not a book for an older child with stronger reading abilities obviously but great for the others.
The publishers of the edition I had, had slapped it with a Level One sticker. This is my only problem with the book, one that seems to have been remedied (at least with the ones currently being sold through Amazon) but I'll explain why I was opposed to it anyway. I understand the publishers position of wanting to get it across that the book was aimed not at the more experienced readers while also, giving educators a level to match the book with a reader. However, as an educator I've come to realize that publisher suggested levels are not all created equal. One's Level A book may be another's Level C, Level One may be Level Two, and even more descriptive terms such as "Emergent Readers" may not coincide. The only safe bet is to try to match books to readers yourself, or else follow a more extensive, and especially less biased leveling system such as The Fountas And Pinnell Leveled Book List K-8: 2006-2008 Edition. Of course, it is impossible for any outside leveling system to include every childrens book out there, but at least the ones they do are all leveled using consistent criteria.
Getting back to the adult side of things, the illustrations which are so important in children's literature are next to nonexistent in adult literature. I'm wondering if anyone could suggest a well illustrated novel. The only one that comes to mind that I've read is Stephen King's novella Cycle Of The Werewolf with illustrations by Berni Wrightston. Of course, I'm aware of graphic novels such as Chester Brown's Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography and the Persepolis Boxed Set by Marjane Satrapi, and while I do plan on checking those out, I'm talking now about illustrated novels, not graphic (comic) novels. Suggestions?


Robert Hiscock said...

Not quite what you're
looking for I expect, but
the Kevin Major/David Blackwood collaboration
Ann & Seamus
is a nice blend of art and fiction
for the more mature reader.

John Mutford said...

The first time I heard of Anne Harvey was in a childrens' book called Heroes of Isle Aux Morts by Alice Walsh and illustrated by Geoff Butler. It is an interesting tale that probably does deserve multiple versions.

John Mutford said...

rj also reminded me that there was an illustrated version of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code . A good idea if anyone's ever read the non-illustrated edition. I found myself looking up works of art on the internet and it would have been nice to have illustrations at hand.

John Mutford said...

Edith Tacher Hurd is the wife of illustrator Clement Hurd (Goodnight Moon).