Aug 15, 2021

Two Sides To Every Story... in Two AMAZING Picture Books, and ONE MORE.

 I'm a fan of poetry-- reading it, writing it, and enjoying the many forms available to talented poets. In a picture book reviewed HERE, two years ago, I celebrated the remarkable teamwork of a pair of poets and an illustrator, Kate and Jol Temple and Terri Rose Baynton. This book, ROOM ON OUR ROCK, is written in a lesser-used poetic form, the REVERSO. Stated simply (and appearing to be much simpler than it actually is!), a reverso poem reads in two parts, with the first half appearing to be the end, but with an expectation to continue reading it from that "ending" backwards, concluding with the first line of the poem. Only in this way will readers fully grasp the layers and levels of meaning. 

Kane Miller Publishing, 2021

Now, two years after their original success with that REVERSO picture book, this creative team returns with a companion  book in similar form and art style, MOVE THAT MOUNTAIN.

With the identical tagline, THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY, the simple text appears to confirm the visual and common sense reality that even the most caring and committed puffins will not be able to rescue a beached whale...except. The REVERSO form is triggered on the final page with the line "Read it again from the back to the start." 

Clinging to the hope that directive provides, readers can proceed from a melancholy ending to a marvelous celebration of the powerful impact of cooperation and persistence. As with the original ROOM ON THE ROCK, what we expect, what we believe, and what we are willing to work for can reshape the reality in which we live- together. 

Both picture books in this pair have that quality I so appreciate and celebrate-- something to offer any and every age. Even the youngest will engage with the expressive animals, especially the colorful and caring puffins, with their empathic and remarkable eyes and energy, as well as that magnificent whale with its surprising grace and grateful, pleading eyes. Older readers will respond enthusiastically to the challenge of constructing a REVERSO text, while appreciating the impact and subtlety of flipping line orders and expectations. 

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021

Another new picture book offers a slightly different take on a TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY tagline. TURTLE IN A TREE is written and illustrated by Neesha Hudson. In this case, the story involves contrasting views of reality, as voiced by disagreeing, slightly disagreeable dogs. One sweater-wearing wagger insists that there is a turtle in the tree, while a necktie-wearing voice of reason insists it must, instead, be a squirrel. Their reasoned, reasonable discussion escalates to a shouting match, shaking the truth from the tree, not once, but twice. 

I can't describe the joy I felt when first one dog then the other admitted their presumed mistakes, accepting each others' acknowledgements graciously. Then their shared amazement and the recognition that they had experienced things differently offers each a wider world view. 

From cover to cover, the simple text, font choices, illustrations with expressive features and body postures all invite connection and identification by readers of any age. In contrast to the REVERSO "bounce back" endings above, this delightful ending, a page turn past the final copyright page, suggests that conflicting observations and arguments like these are far from over. Throughout, grins and giggles are spontaneous and immediate. 

This, too, will win fans in little lap-sitters, but also extends invitations to older readers to discuss and debate the ways in which argument, observation, evidence, and even common sense can foreclose our willingness to honestly investigate the truth. These appeallng little characters demonstrate the damaging impact of rejecting whatever is outside our own experiences. 

Some schools are already back in session, while others will resume soon. Kids may be returning to school from an extended period of semi-isolation and being surrounded by singular, strongly-held points of view within their families and social circles. Issues related to vaccines and masks have been treated as absolutes with accusations and arguments. Could there be a better time to share  picture books as we  appreciate and discuss and explore the many ways in which things are not always cut-and-dried, black-and-white, turtle-or-squirrel? 

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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.