Center for Children's Books
|The Big Picture, a
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look at selected new titles and trends. See the
archive for selections from previous months.
by Shutta Crum; illus. by Patrice Barton
The curtain rises on this nearly wordless adventure right in the
opening endpaper, when one adult (seen, as in toddler perspective, from
the waist down) lowers a squirming baby to the floor, another holds a
teetering toddler by the hand, and the two kids peer raptly at a
scattering of toys while a spotted pooch hovers in the background.
Thaose simple ingredients and the one word “Mine” then prove enough to
create a toddler-iffic tale of physical comedy.
Knowing, as do all little kids, that possession is nine-tenths of the
law, the older child is quick to stake out the territory, grabbing up
the toys one at a time and firmly identifying each of them as “Mine” to
the cheerfully unimpressed baby. Possession proves transitory, however,
as one emphatic gesture sends the collection flying in all directions.
The toddler’s dreams of cornering the toy market are further shattered
when the playful pup grabs a dropped ball on the bounce and the baby
first snags a soft bunny-like item and then gleefully lobs it into the
air over the toddler’s head. When the bunny lands with a splash in the
dog’s dish, the delighted kids seize on a jolly new game of
“drop-everything-in-the-water,” resulting in a drippy romp for kids and
pooch. The dog then tries his paw at toy-guarding (with a “Woof” rather
than a “Mine” and a play-bow that indicates this is all in fun).
Finally, the baby puts the seal on the youngsters’ new bonding and
takes a leap into the concept of possession by unsteadily wobbling on
his/her own two feet towards the toddler and smacking the older child
to the ground in a joyous embrace, hollering “Mine!”
That’s all appropriately toddler-level adventure, with plenty of
pleasing slapstick (toddlers celebrate gravity like nobody else) and
mess. Yet the story isn’t just an excuse for enjoyable chaos, it’s also
smoothly and neatly crafted, with some real conceptual exploration of
the perils and shades of possession: no, you can’t have it all, it’s
more fun when you don’t, and people are more enjoyable than things
anyway. Given that there’s virtually no text (the only word other than
“Mine” is “Woof”), it’s up to the art to do the heavy lifting here, and
Barton’s art not only rises to the occasion but soars beyond it. The
book describes the medium as “pencil sketches created digitally,” but
that’s not a description that fully evokes the nuclear intensity of the
illustrations’ appeal. Smudgy pastel-like textures, soft, organically
uneven patterning, and friendly sketchy lines combine in figures that
suggest American cousins to Shirley Hughes’ kids. Barton has more than
simple cuteness in her armory, however; she’s a dab hand at apt
details, such as the way the baby laughs with feet and hands wiggling
in the air and the bulging of the toddler’s diaper-covering pants, and
her compositions, occasionally highlighted by dotted lines showing the
path of various kid-flung and dog-carried objects, balance the
ebullient chaos with space and compositional order.
While the adorable munchkins have definite adult appeal, their
interactions will ring true to young audiences as well. Lapsitters will
delight in following along with the proceedings without much grownup
assistance, engaging in shared explanation of the kids’ actions, and
flinging whatever they can get their hands on in literary celebration.
Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Cover image from Mine!
©2011 by Patrice Barton and used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.
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This page was last updated on July 1, 2011.