Monday, June 3, 2013

Wordless Picture Books

Wordless Picture Books

You'd expect a wordless picture book to convey a simple message
for a pre reading child to get. Some do this quite well. Then some
do so much more, conveying situational complexity and ethical message
through illustration alone. Jeannie Baker's Home and Henry Cole's
Unspoken are two exceptional examples I discovered recently at my home
away from home, the Orono Public Library.
Home takes a fascinating perspective. Each picture is the same
window looking outward over the years from the birth of a new baby
girl to the arrival of her own child. In the very first picture proud
parents bring their child home. A congratulations card is perched on
the sill. Over the years you see transformation on both sides of the
glass. The objects on the window change to reflect the interests of a
girl and teen. In the yard outside you see her splash in her pool,
plant flowers, work on her bike, share a private moment with her
boyfriend, and eventually bring her own child to show her parents.
If this tender story were all to it this book would be amazing.
But there's a lot more going on. As the child changes, the street
beyond her yard goes from run down, neglected slum to inviting
residential neighborhood. In a short piece at the end of the book,
Baker explains:
"In some cities, however, communities are finding ways their
streets can once again become a part of people's sense of home and
play a part in their sense of belonging. Many communities are working
to bring back the variety of local plants and animals that once lived
there. People are discovering the need to nurture and to be nurtured
by the unique character of the places where they lived." Talk about
Unspoken is done simply and poignantly in graphite on cafe au
lait paper. It's set in slavery days. A young girl accompanied by
her cat goes about her farm chores. She sees an eye looking out at
her. You can see she's scared at the presence of a fugitive. But she
beings bringing him or her food. Even when men with guns arrive she
does not give out her secret. One day the runaway is gone, leaving the
gift of a home made corn husk doll. In the last picture the girl lies
in bed holding her doll and looking up at the North Star.
Cole grew up hearing Civil War stories that had been passed down
from people who had lived them. His farm was in the middle of some of
the sites of famous battles. But he didn't want to tell this aspect
of those times in his book. "I wanted to tell--or show--the courage
of everyday people who were brave in quiet ways." He has succeeded
admirably in this. The back cover asks, "What would you do if you had
the chance to help someone find freedom?" Now that is food for thought.
On a personal note, quiet courage comes in many different forms. For
me right now it's sticking with school board as Veazie becomes a stand
alone despite the fact I'm not sure what to do many times and often
feel angry and sad about the RSU breaking up. It's not giving into
the temptation to just give up. How are you showing quiet courage?
Give yourself a few minutes to think on this?
A great big shout out goes out to all who exhibit quiet courage and
all who work to recreate neighborhoods that nurture.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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