Celebrating the Opposite Side of the Pond

Lynn:  Cindy and I recently discovered two new books created  by European authors and published by small presses.  We love them both and are excited to share them with Bookends readers.  One of the truly nice things about publishing of late is that we are getting to see more books from authors and illustrators outside the US.

BangI’m leading off with a book by Leo Timmers titled Bang (Gecko Press 2013).  Timmers is a winner of several awards for his books and I completely fell in love with his distinctive style.  This nearly wordless book shows what happens to distracted drivers, beginning with the first driver, a bowler-wearing deer, whose car is loaded with books.  He is also reading one of them (Bang of course) and runs right into a garbage can.  BANG!  Books fly everywhere.  Behind him come a series of equally distracted animals driving cars loaded with a crazy variety of cargo.  Each impact is shown on a colorful page with the single word – Bang – and the crazy loads fly forward over everything and everyone.  His illustrations are large, bright and hilarious and each page is full of funny details that make re-reading a delight.  Now I’m sure that there will be some who think car wrecks are no laughing matter but I think that point IS taken by kids while still enjoying the cartoon mayhem that ensues.

The older members of our focus group read this to the youngest, Henry, during the holiday and I’m not sure who enjoyed it most.  The giggles were contagious and I noticed many of the adults later picking up the book.  A final fold out page reveals the last climactic collision at which point everyone gets out and has ice cream.  I loved this charming book and am on the hunt for more from this gifted author.

Pomelo's OppositesCindy: My offering is a small, chubby book that Lynn found at the public library called Pomelo’s Opposites (Enchanted Lion 2013) by Ramona Badescu and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. I’m not familiar with the first two: Pomelo Begins to Grow (2011) or Pomelo Explores Color (2012) that Daniel Kraus proclaimed to be: “Idiosyncratic and mind-expanding,” in his review, but they are worth tracking down if this one is any indication of the fun to be had.

Pomelo the pink elephant is now learning about opposites in a way that will make even the adults reading this aloud with young children think twice about concept books. Near and far, high and low, morning and evening….these are opposites we’ve seen. In and Out. Yep. WAIT. In: the elephant is using his trunk to put a red round fruit in his mouth and on the facing page….Out! A brown ball of similar size is falling out!!! I can hear the three-year-old giggles now.

What I really love is that this is a concept book that embraces the abstract as well as the concrete, and therefore it will grow with the child and also be “mind-expanding” for any adults who are sharing the fun. When have you seen “heartless and kind” illustrated in an opposites book? “Stranger and friend,” the subtle difference between “see and look at,” and my favorite, “having and being.” There’s more going on here, too, with Pomelo’s attempt at a relationship with frog threaded through the pairings. Pomelo won my heart and I bet he will win a young child’s too…get a copy and try it. Perhaps you can start creating your own opposites book…let your imagination loose.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.

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