Monday, September 15, 2008

Wordless PBs

I heard a lot of buzz about Suzy Lee's new picture book WAVE, so I took it out from the library. In fact, I've taken it out twice now. It's about a girl playing on the beach, interacting with the ocean and the waves that come on shore. Lee contrasts black & white parts of the illustrations  with blue parts (one shade of blue, one value).

It's a spirited book, but I can't bond with it.

My instinct is to say that I can't bond with it because of the details of the blue. It's a particularly medium shade of blue, one that I do not associate iconically with ocean; it's a slightly darker version of the blue often used symbolically for sky. Also, the fact that this book's blue is ONE hue only -- no bits of green, no navy, no gray -- and ONE value only (no shift of darkness/lightness) -- makes it hard for me to see the ocean in it. 

But it does change intensity (denseness; picture the same color with water added or water sucked out. Another word for intensity is saturation). And the compositions and figure are full of spirit.

Confession: I fear I have a problem with wordless picture books. I have a really hard time connecting with then. I haven't figured out why, but I think it's to do with pacing. I find myself skimming and flipping, going way too fast to do any page justice. I don't know why. With picture books that have only a few words per page, I do just fine: I take the pace any way I want to, any way the text and pictures tell me to, and it's all good. But when a picture book is wordless, my eyes and brain slip and slide over the surface. Can't find purchase.

Do you like wordless picture books? Why or why not? Do you read them with different pacing than picture books with words? Got any ideas for how I can appreciate them better?


Cassandra Mortmain said...

I have the exact same problem you have with wordless picture books with graphic novels-- I'll only read the words and find myself skimming over the images. In that case, usually, it's because they are too small for me to really appreciate the details in them.

I think that sort of thing would extend to wordless picture books-- words are usually way my into anything. They can be (obviously) enormously enhanced by images, but images alone can't often move me as completely.

Although I did LOVE the Carl books when I was a child. So who knows?

Anonymous said...

I also agree -- I've looked at the wave a few times now, and although I appreciate the art and the lovely pencil drawing, it just doesn't all come together for me, either. I think my reaction initially was, "Oh, pretty... hmm... next!" I think I'm generally a lazy reader, and wordless books are sometimes just too much work.


rebecca said...

Thanks for your input, guys.

Leo, Maybe something about The Wave itself just doesn't come together for some of us, so I should make sure keep myself open to other wordless books.

Cassandra, I have a hard time doing "images alone" in the picture book context, but I am an avid fan of fine art. It feels so profoundly different to me -- one image vs. many images in a row that form an arc. So different!