I first caught a glimpse of today’s Perfect Picture Book during the New England SCBWI conference this past Spring. One look at the title and the gorgeous cover and I was hooked – I was a shy child hiding in books (and some would argue I still am) who raised three book-loving introverts. How could I not love this book? With its stunning artwork and heart-warming story, though, I think everyone will love this Perfect Picture Book – whether you’re shy…or not!
Written & Illustrated By: Deborah Freedman
Publisher/date: Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), September 2016
Suitable for Ages: 3-5
Themes/Topics: shyness, friendship, birds, overcoming fear, books
Opening: “Shy was happiest between the pages of a book.”
Brief Synopsis: Shy, a timid creature, hides in books until he hears a songbird sing. He sets out to meet her, and in so doing, faces his fears.
Links to Resources:
- Have you ever felt shy? Draw or describe a time you felt shy or afraid to do something;
- Download Shy postcards and a Shy writing page here;
- Do you have a shy friend or sibling? Describe a time when you encouraged her or him to join an activity or go on an adventure;
- Learn more about birds and bird songs;
- Share a favorite book with a friend.
Why I Like this Book:
Shy is a quiet book that presents a character who has read about birds and thinks he will love them, but who has “never actually heard a bird,” and when he does, worries that he may not “know how to talk” to one and “what if” he stuttered, blushed, or…
The gentle story of overcoming one’s fear to find a friend will resonate, I think, with shy children (and adults!) as well as friends and family of shy children.
With its pastel palette and low word count, Shy is a perfect bedtime story or read-aloud to a class simmering down after lunch or recess. And I love how the story invites friends to share favorite books together.
To quote a starred Kirkus review, “Freedman’s fine pencil lines, graceful animals, superb compositions, and spare text are virtuosic, but the backgrounds are the soul of Shy’s tale: breathtaking watercolor washes blend hues softly from one section of the natural color spectrum to another, opaquely connoting desert, mountains, skies, dawn, and night.”
A Note about Craft:
“Show don’t tell” – a directive that picture book authors hear again and again. If you’re writing about a shy character who hides in books, how do you show this? A pile of books perhaps? A head poking out of the top of an open book perhaps? Or, perhaps, if you’re the talented Deborah Freedman, you hide the character within the book itself. And what better place to hide a character than smack in the middle of that book – the gutter. As many shy people disappear in the middle of a classroom, party or other gathering, so Shy hides right in the middle of his own book. Brilliant!
Hiding the main character presents a problem and an opportunity. The problem, of course, is that with your main character less present in the beginning pages, the narrator and illustrations must work harder to help the readers picture and empathize with him or her. At the same time, this is an opportunity, building tension, as your readers and listeners wonder who, or what, the main character is. It’s also an opportunity to drop visual clues, so that when the first reading ends, the reader and listener will want to go back to the beginning and see who is the first to find Shy hiding in plain sight.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!