Release Your Inner Toddler

Now that my daughter is of an age where she reads books about gruesome murders, ghosts and hungry games, I seldom delve into children’s picture books. However, I recently ran across an interesting review, read the book, and was entranced. This made me recall that some picture books are at least as equally entertaining for adults as for children. So I sought out a few titles that would delight grown-ups, and here’s what I found.

Black Book
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria

Imagine that you can see a color that no one else can see. You try to describe the color, but it’s so different from all other colors that it can’t be described by referring to known colors.

Now imagine describing any color to someone who has never seen a color. Saying that it’s light or dark or bright would not be helpful. Which leads me to wonder, how do unsighted people perceive colors? The Black Book of Colors is an entirely black book with short, poetic descriptions of colors, both in braille and text, followed by raised pictures for the reader to feel.

“Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”

The purpose of this book is to give sighted people an opportunity to explore what it’s like to be blind. As I felt the raised pictures (without looking at them), I had no idea what they depicted. It was actually a frustrating experience, which makes me think that the book is effective.

For those who might want to read the text in Braille, the Braille alphabet can be found at the end of the book.

Chloe and the Lion
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, pictures by Adam Rex

Here we find lovely pictures that illustrate a story where both the author and illustrator are also characters in the story, however with a more realistic appearance than that of the other characters. The action occurs on a stage set with scenery (as in a play), although the story is told as if it’s really happening rather than being acted out. All grinds to a halt when the illustrator thinks his idea for a beastie is way cooler than the author’s. A fight ensues ending with the author firing the illustrator and hiring a different artist. The new artist is somewhat less talented than the original, but he also thinks that he has cooler ideas than the author. Soon he too is fired and the author decides to both write and illustrate. One tiny problem: he can’t draw. Finally, he invites the original illustrator to come back (after an abject apology), and the story concludes with a mystery and a surprise ending.

Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Old Man Fookwire has few joys in life, but he loves to paint pictures of the birds in his yard. Every winter when the birds fly south he feels sad and lonely. One particular winter he comes up with a plan to keep the birds from leaving: build bird feeders to provide food for the birds in the cold foodless months. The problem, as most Northwesterners know: bird feeders are actually squirrel feeders. When the weather turns cold, the birds leave, and the old man is lonely once again. However the squirrels, who are hungry but not bad at heart, devise a plan to bring some joy into Fookwire’s life.

The following passage gives a feel for this book’s prose:

“The squirrels stayed up all night working out their strategy. They drank cherry cola and ate salt-and-vinegar chips to help them stay awake. Finally, they had it: the perfect plan! They put on their tiny helmets and prepared to launch themselves into the air, over the fence, between the lasers and onto the bird feeders.”

 A fun read with silly pictures conveying a silly story.

There are countless other enticing picture books as well. I encourage you to share some titles with the rest of us so that we may let loose our inner toddlers (which is already pretty close to the surface in some cases). And if you see Harold with his crayon, say, “Hi!”