As any parent, grandparent or caregiver can attest, early childhood is a time of questioning: “Why…”, “Where…” “When…” Sometimes it seems as if the questioning is never-ending. At such times, we will do the child, and ourselves, a favor by stepping back, taking a deep breath, closing our eyes, and wondering – just like the young child in today’s Perfect Picture Book.
Title: The Wonder
Written & Illustrated By: Faye Hanson
Publisher/date: Candlewick Press/2015 (originally published in the UK, Templar Books/2014)
Suitable for Ages: 3-7
Themes/Topics: Imagination, creativity, art, dreams
Opening: “This is a boy whose head is filled with wonder. On the way to the bus stop, he wonders where the birds are flying to.”
Brief Synopsis: A young boy imagines many different sights on his journey to school and during the school day, only to be rebuffed by most of the adults he encounters.
Links to Resources:
- Use your imagination to draw or color on a blank sheet of paper
- Tell a story about a picture in a museum or an old photograph you find at home
Why I Like this Book:
The Wonder captures the questioning of a young child and reminds adult readers that it’s ok to stop and smell the roses, to daydream, to wonder. And it’s a reminder to young listeners that it’s ok to share your dreams and to persevere in dreaming.
While it could be easy to focus on the negative reactions of the classroom and science teachers in the story, I’d prefer to focus on the positive influence of the art teacher who has left a “blank sheet of paper” waiting for the children, who encourages the boy to “use your imagination,” and who praises his work when the boy hesitantly shares it. As is visible on the blackboard of this school art room, “‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ Picasso” In this debut picture book, author/illustrator Faye Hanson, who hails from northern England, shows that she has solved Picasso’s dilemma.
A Note about Craft:
The Wonder is a perfect example of the essence of a picture book: the story exists as much in the illustrations as the text, perhaps even more so. From the sepia tones of the real world to the fanciful, colorful images in the child’s head, including the five double-spread illustrations midway through the book (which reminded this reader of certain album cover artwork from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s psychedelic era), the illustrations show the wonder in the unnamed protagonist’s head as he journeys through his day.
Interestingly, the book deviates from the usual 32 page norm, and is, instead, 40 pages in length. Ms. Hanson has put these extra pages to good use with double spreads incorporating the nay-saying adults the child meets into the imaginary worlds where he believes they belong. Children and adults will find much to savor in these spreads. And for those who have read Megan Dowd Lambert’s Reading Picture Books with Children, the use of boxes to frame some of the encounters and full-bleed double page spreads for the scenes of wonder are well worth pointing out during a read-aloud session.
Note: Faye Hanson’s new picture book, Midnight at the Zoo, debuted recently. I can’t wait to read it and explore the illustrations!