Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Sounds Around

Every year I am always on the look out for the new the fantastic winter holiday season picturebook. Looking through some of them in the summer (yes, we see them that early for ordering purposes) I wonder if any will catch my eye.  And then one finally does.  When it arrives in our store approximately four months later, we are nearly inseparable.  This year it is Lita Judge's Red Sled.  Let's sled along to the form of this new release...

What do you think of when you hear the words "wordless picturebook"?  For me, the last words on my mind are "babyish."  Sadly, this is what some customers view them as.  However, the amount of words have nothing to do with the appeal, age level, or success of a book.  For picturebooks, it is not simply the words that drive a story but the art.

I love wordless picturebooks for a variety of reasons.  The first is that it gives children an opportunity to read the story to you, even if they can't read yet.  The second is that it teaches art skills. How do you know the character is intrigued if there are no words to indicate this?  Through the illustrations.  When I nannied for two small children one summer, the three-year-old asked me what the character liked to do for fun.  We had a great time looking at the illustrations discovering various things that this character enjoyed doing and looking at the toys she had.

All right, so back to Red Sled.  A boy's sled is borrowed by a bear who ventures out with it.  Soon a rabbit joins him.  And then a moose, two raccoons, a mouse, a possum, and a porcupine.  What a great midnight adventure!  Guess who joins the next night?

As you may have guessed this book is a wordless picturebook -- with the exception of some onomatopoeia.  The sounds really work to bring the story to a whole new dimension.  I mean, when your sledding, shouts of joy are often inevitable.  And then there are screams of fear.  Judge depicts the huge difference between this:

AND this:

The art of the picturebook is illustration. Words exist to help drive the story along and to add to the atmosphere of the story.  And sometimes sounds take it that much further.

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