|Roaring Book Press, 2018|
That suggests that this book, with timeless truth and universally recognizable emotions, should become an
immediate and endless must-have.
Creator Otashi has utilized her talent to convey the simplest of concepts through expressive inanimate objects while revealing simple-but-not-simplistic human relationships and reactions. Her subtle approach to deep but resonant human values make her books as appealing to toddlers as they are to teens. (See covers and link below.)
This also means that descriptions of her stories, particularly this one, sound obvious or uninteresting when described, at least by me. Because of my own inability to do the book justice with words, I'll rely on photos of a few interior spreads to demonstrate specific points. First, a summary:
Two boys, each unaware of the other, are drawing lines when they bump butts. Their spontaneous reactions include surprise, engagement, and the joining of their lines. In only a page turn or two one boy accidentally hurts the other, laughs, and their battle begins, severing their joined line. Their sustained angry, even vengeful expressions create a crack-that-becomes-a-crevasse between them. Only when one of the two seeks out a space in which the divide is narrowest does a potential solution emerge.
Otashi's concept books offer a master class in the use of white space, selective use of color and blending, and the emotional impact generated by color tones, color depth, shadow, and minimal lines.
The endpapers are solid color, a mid-tone purple. I wondered about that choice, since the battle and resolution throughout are conveyed as much by the purple/yellow shifts and blends as they are by the actions and expressions of the boys. Those endpapers are a pleasant, gentle shade of purple, not suggesting the blackened, threatening tones of the pages with the deepest conflict. Even so, I wondered, "Why not yellow?" Why not at least some aspect of yellow used in the the final endpaper. Then I did what I urge everyone to do, with every good picture book.
That's when I recognized more clearly how Otashi achieved her final twist, indicating that the closing of the story is actually a beginning. But only a beginning. I'm not sharing that spread here because you really MUST get this book and examine it closely. (The third spread above suggests what develops.) Without a word of text, without any rose-colored glasses, her final spread offers hope while retaining an awareness of the polarity and conflict that surround the boys (us), a reminder that cooperation and collaboration are choices, not magical solutions.
I wish I could provide this book to every classroom across the country. But why stop there? It's wordless, and other than the generic "western" characters, it provides fully universal appeal AND food for thought and discussion for any culture or geographic location.
Why would I stop there with my recommendation?
It would also be a wonderful gift book for adults, particularly those who find themselves firmly locked into one set of opinions.
In fact, Otashi's other books (here) would make a terrific gift pack for those same adults.