Wednesday, November 20, 2013

30 Days of Picture Books - How To by Julie Morstad

It's Day 13 of our 30 Days of Picture Books. One of the things I love most about picture books is the pairing of words with visuals. It's well-documented that this is a powerful tool for language acquisition in young children, as little ones are able to discern the meaning of text by examining the images that accompany them. Beyond that, though, there's the allurement factor. Picture books allow us to lavish our kiddos with an outpouring of art that would be difficult to attain in every other venue. Think about it -- would you rather take a rambunctious toddler to a museum for art appreciation, or visit the children's room at the library and bring home a bunch of literary goodies?

Today's pick is a great example of the kind of art you can find in picture books  -- How To by Julie Morstad, a gentle title where graceful images and simple text marry effortlessly to produce artistic bounty. Morstad turns a slip of a phrase, "how to feel a breeze", for example, and combines it with an unassuming yet arresting drawing, in this case of a boy riding his bike downhill. The drawings aren't complex, they don't scream for your attention - and yet there's something incredibly sincere about the work. The images are adorable and very soulful at the same time.

Morstad weaves in a good dose of humor, too. On a spread where four kiddos of various ethnicities lie stacked up in pillows, her text reads "how to make a sandwich". A page with a girl in a raincoat, face upturned to the rain, is titled "how to wash your face". Sprout got a huge kick out of this, and it afforded us the opportunity to talk about variable meanings, and how if you changed the image, the text would mean something entirely different, or vice versa. Context is everything, and this book teaches that beautifully. How To also offers young readers the chance to sort out some bits of the story on their own -- like how did that boy get up in the tree, or why is the girl sleeping on so many mattresses?

Picture books are a treasure trove of beauty, the epitome of magic wrapped between squares of cardboard. How To is one unassuming book from the outside, but crack the cover and you'll find plenty to get your young reader talking and thinking - and probably to get your own mind working as well.

How To by Julie Morstad, published by Simply Read Books

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