Tag Archives: communication

PPBF – Drawn Together

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book from a blog post interview (cited below) with the talented author and illustrator. I knew right away that I had to read and review this newly-published picture book. I’m so glad I did!

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Title: Drawn Together

Written By: Minh Lê

Illustrated By: Dan Santat

Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion (an imprint of Disney Book Group)/2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5 (and older)

Themes/Topics: grandparents; communication; connections; art

Opening:

So…what’s new, Grandpa?

Brief Synopsis: A young boy and his non-English speaking grandfather bridge their communication divide through art and a shared love of fantasy.

Links to Resources:

  • Watch a video of Dan Santat discussing his art process for Drawn Together;
  • Draw a picture of, or for, a grandparent or special person in your life;
  • Lê’s grandparents and parents emigrated from Vietnam. Santat is of Thai descent. Discover these two Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam and Thailand;
  • Find more ideas in the Educator Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

Drawn Together is a visually stunning picture book that tackles an important question: how to bridge a generational divide, especially when the parties don’t speak the same language. In this case, the unnamed young narrator doesn’t speak Thai, the language of his grandfather, the grandfather speaks no English, and the two seem far apart and rather unhappy together as the story begins. But a shared love of creating art unites the two, even though the art they create differs stylistically. In the book’s dramatic turning point, the grandfather surprises his grandson “by revealing a world beyond words.” The boy notes that “in a FLASH” the pair see each other through their art, through the fantastical characters and scenes they create with markers, pen and ink.

What starts as a fairly quiet book becomes a rousing adventure as the pair work together to draw and defeat a “roaring” serpent monster. I think the inclusion of these epic action-filled scenes will appeal to kids (and adults), whether or not they’ve experienced communication problems with older relatives, new kids at school, or anyone else.

Santat created the detailed illustrations in traditional mixed media. I especially enjoyed how the beginning illustrations were wordless panels, like stills from a cartoon video, but then became intricate, full-page and double-page spreads with the boy’s and grandfather’s creations interacting to create “a new world that even words can’t describe.”

A Note about Craft:

With text comprising about 100 words and not starting until page 4, to say that this is a low word-count picture book or that Lê left plenty of space for the illustrator is a bit of an understatement. Nowhere in the text does it explicitly dictate how the two artists’ creations will come together to “build a new world”. Lê seemingly gave no direction to his illustrator, letting Santat create the new world from old, pen & ink, black & white, Asian warriors, and new, colorful markers and a young wizard reminiscent of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia.

The title is, as you’ve probably discovered, a double entendre, a play on words, that drew this reader in & reminded me of the importance of an evocative, memorable title.

Finally, as I examined the endpapers, lifted the jacket cover, and poured over Drawn Together, I was reminded of Megan Dowd Lambert’s Whole Book Approach, and the many opportunities Lê and Santat offer readers to delve deeper into this wonderful collaboration.

Visit Minh Lê’s website. Read the transcript, or listen to the audio, of an All Things Considered (NPR) interview with Lê about Drawn Together and the importance of connecting with others.

Visit Dan Santat’s website to see more of his books and artwork.

For an insightful Q&A with Lê & Santat, see Think Quick.

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!

PPBF – Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Happy Book Birthday to today’s Perfect Picture Book! While all book birthdays are happy occasions, today’s book birthday is particularly special as we celebrate the pairing of an award-winning children’s author and poet hailing from the United States with a preeminent illustrator hailing from Iran. Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, Tiny Owl Publishing, I received an advance copy that I’ve read and reread, including to my own pup (he loved it, too!).

Thinker_9781910328330-768x1074Title: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Written By: Eloise Greenfield

Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/April 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: dogs; poetry; communication; #WNDB

Opening:

Naming Me

They brought me from the neighbour’s house

and put me on the floor,

they talked about their love for me,

and I thought, “More! More! More!”

Brief Synopsis: A collection of discreet poems that tells the story of Thinker, a dog who writes and recites poetry, and Jace, a young poet, as the pair bond over poetry and ultimately enjoy a memorable Pets Day at school.

Links to Resources:

  • Can your pet talk? Explore the different ways animals communicate;
  • Enjoy more dog-themed poetry;
  • Follow Greenfield’s lead and write “a poem or two”;
  • Although I’ve never met a poetry-writing dog, some dogs enjoy being read to, including therapy dogs who visit libraries and encourage children to read aloud to them. Learn more about library dogs;
  • Make tissue-paper collages, similar to those created by Abdollahi.

Why I Like this Book:

Told in a series of 16 free verse and rhymed poems, primarily from the point of view of Thinker, Thinker explores what it means to be part of a family and be appreciated for one’s talents within that family, and how we can share our unique talents with the wider community, too.

Thinker is an engaging story with a kid-relatable problem: Jace doesn’t want his poetic dog to show off his unique skills in school because Jace doesn’t want other children to consider him weird. But being quiet is difficult for Thinker. He questions,

Who am I, if I’m
not myself?
Who am I?

Only by being himself and sharing the poetry in his heart is Thinker happy. Indeed, who are we, if we can’t be ourselves and express the joy and music in our hearts, in our own unique ways, too. Jace learns this important lesson. He also realizes that others admire Thinker’s poetry and that other pets have unique talents. But you’ll have to read Thinker to discover what those talents are.

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Ehsan Abdollahi from Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Thinker also celebrates communication: the cross-species communication of the two poetry-loving friends and the cross-cultural communication between the poet’s words and the illustrator’s images. United by a love of children’s literature, the renowned American poet Greenfield shares her lyrical words and the talented Iranian illustrator Abdollahi shares his colorful, handmade, hand-coloured collaged illustrations to create a wonderful reading experience that owes its beauty to the unique talents of its creators.  Thinker’s smaller, just-right-for-younger-hands size will appeal to kids. The retro feel of the illustrations is an additional plus, especially as Thinker features a family of color, living  an everyday life with a twist – a poetic dog in their home.

A Note about Craft:

Greenfield includes poems in Thinker that switch between the points of view of Thinker and Jace. In “Two Poets Talking”, Jace and Thinker even hold a conversation through their poetry.

Greenfield includes many free verse poems and also some that rhyme.  There’s a short Haiku and the 89-year young poet even ends Thinker with “Thinker’s Rap.” I hope when I reach Greenfield’s age, I’m still writing and embracing new forms of expression.

Greenfield is the author of 47 books for children, and has received many awards, including the 2018 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English. Read Greenfield’s essay  about how Thinker began. See also a 2007 interview by Don Tate in The Brown Bookshelf.

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         Eloise Greenfield by Ehsan Abdollahi

Abdollahi is a noted Iranian illustrator, who illustrated, among other works, When I Coloured in the World (Ahmadreza Ahmadi, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2015) and A Bottle of Happiness (Pippa Goodheart, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017). Read an interview with him here.

Thinker is not yet available in the US, but you can order it from the Book Depository, that ships for free worldwide.

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!