Tag Archives: wordless books

Here I Am

16 Oct

Today’s review is for Here I Am, story by Patti Kim, illustrations by Sonia Sanchez, published by Capstone Young Readers. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Here I Am book cover

Here I Am is a wordless book that tells the story of a young boy immigrating to the United States from Asia. The boy is overwhelmed by the new city at first; there are so many strange sights and sounds. He becomes sullen and reserved and spends most of his time staring out at the world from his apartment window. The only thing that brings him hope and joy is a seed that he brought over with him. Then, one day, while he is looking out the window, the boy drops the seed and a little girl picks it up. As a result, the boy ventures out into the city on his own to reclaim the seed. On the way he discovers that his new home is lively and full of great sights, sounds, and people.

To write this story, author Patti Kim drew upon her own experiences of being a child immigrant from Korea. This story isn’t autobiographical, but it she’s still able to call upon the personal to create a strong emotional response. Often in wordless books, we forget to credit the person who wrote the story, since in the end we only see the illustrations. However, it’s important to give credit where credit is due–in this case to Kim who created a story that would be powerful in any medium.

Which is not to say that the art of Sonia Sanchez didn’t elevate the work. To the contrary, it was Sanchez’s ability to capture complex emotions in her art that drew me into the story and kept me engaged. The way that she clusters multiple frames on the page creates such a great sense of mood. It’s a technique I haven’t seen used much, but it’s highly effective. Another touch that is nice is how signs appear to be in jibberish, but as the boy grows more familiar with his new country, they begin to most closely resemble English. Finally, I enjoyed the use of color. Early in the story, most of the colors are in the red and yellow range. But, once the boy ventures out and starts to engage with the world, a lot more greens and blues enter the page. It gives a real sense of the world opening up to him.

This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. It was emotionally resonate and provides a great resource for talking with children about immigrant experiences. My only real issue with the whole thing was that initially, I couldn’t decipher that the seed was a seed. Otherwise, I like that the book addresses the emotional side of immigration, and shows that just because someone is closed off, it doesn’t mean that they are not interested in friends.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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Book Review: Hocus Pocus Takes the Train

30 Sep

Today’s book review is for Hocus Pocus Takes the Train, story by Sylvie Desrosiers, illustrations by Remy Simard, published by Kids Can Press. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hocus Pocus Takes the Train is a wordless comic adventure for children. It’s a book that both readers and pre-readers can enjoy. Despite the lack of text, there is still a strong, rich story to be enjoyed.

Desrosiers has written a story about a magician’s rabbit who find’s a toddler’s stuffed rabbit toy. He wants to reunite toy and child–but he will have to face a tight train schedule, an intimidating dog, and more to achieve his goal. The story is fast-paced and action packed, while at the same time sweet and heart-warming. Children will enjoy Hocus Pocus’s clever problem soliving, resourcefulness, and persistence in completing his quest.

Simard’s art tells the story wonderfully. In a wordless comic, the pictures must tell the full story in order for it to work. This story definitely works. His angular characters and spring-time palette are appealing to the eye and echo the style of popular cartoons. They inform the audience that this is a playful tale with a happy ending.

One of the things that I like about wordless comics is how well they can be used in a classroom setting. They provide an excellent opportunity for writing exercises where students have to provide the text that should accompany the images. It also encourages children to learn how to read and decode visual media. We live in a world where visual literacy is often just as important as verbal. We are surrounded by infographics, advertisements, and IKEA instruction manuals that we are expected to make sense of. Comics, particularly wordless volumes, can help to develop the skills needed to do so.

This book earns 5 out of 5 stars for great story, great illustration, and great design. I think that it’s a great example of why comics are becoming an increasingly well respected medium in children’s literature.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Book Review: The Line

20 Sep

Today’s book review is for The Line, by Paula Bossio, published by Kids Can Press. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Line is a wordless book that relies entirely on the illustrations to tell a story. It’s a bit reminiscent of children’s classic Harold and the Purple Crayon, in that the main character, a little girl, is interacting with a child’s drawing. In this case, however, she’s not the creator of the drawing.

As you follow along on the girl’s adventures, you see her shake the line and play as it transforms into a slide, loops, swinging monkeys and more. At the climax she faces a fearsome foe–but is rescued at the last minute by a new friend. The book ends with the audience discovering who is drawing this line.

While many people might look at Bossio’s pencil drawings as messy and childish, I like them. Moreover, I recognize that the illustrative style was an intentional choice. It is meant to have the quality of a child’s drawing. And despite this, she still captures expressions and emotions wonderfully.

I know that wordless stories aren’t always a popular format. However, I think this is one worth giving a chance. They’re great to use with children who can’t read yet or are just learning to read. It provides creative opportunities for kids to tell the story on their own, rather than reciting the text on the page and it encourages the development of decoding a visual environment.

This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. It’s clever and nicely designed. Bossio has a strong concept and execution. And if you’re in doubt–ask your child to read it to you.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.