Monday, March 29, 2010

The Red Book

My friends recently introduced me to the wonderful picture books of BARBARA LEHMAN. Barbara's books are nonverbal; they have no words whatsoever, but they do manage to tell a story. In fact, they can tell a number of stories, with help from you or your children.

THE RED BOOK and THE MUSEUM TRIP were my favorites of the four I read at my friends' house. The books are about 30 pages long. Each page contains one or more nicely drawn "panels" that relate to each other in a narrative way. However, the reader has to do just a tiny bit of work to figure out what is going on between the panels ... which is a good thing.

The books relate almost quirky stories of "wonder" in which the main character is having a little adventure unperceived by the adults around him or her. The adventures window out into clever little spaces and the perspective occasionally changes so that the viewer experiences suprising cognitive shifts (seeing the space through the eyes of a different character or moving in and out of an imaginative plane).

In The Museum Trip, for instance, a student who stops to tie his shoes finds himself lost from his group. He wanders into a room devoted to ancient Minoa (not that this is something kids would necessarily get). There is a statue of a minotaur and a number of drawings of mazes, four or five of which are in a glass case. The boy projects himself mentally into the drawings, running through each maze in turn. At the center of each maze is a tree, except for the last maze which ...

Oh, I can't do it. It's not such a big surprise, but spelling the books out this way kind of ruins your first experience with them. Just go find these books at your library or bookstore and bring them home.

I found the books both simple and profound. They reminded me how powerful pure images can be in telling a story, and I would recommend these beautiful books not just to parents and their children, but to people working in narrative media.

My friends used the books to make their son more verbal; to help him start expressing his ideas in a more complete and rich fashion. They did this by simply asking questions about the unspoken portions of each panel. "Where is he now?" "What's happening?" "What do you think these people are saying?" The books seem like a perfect medium for this exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment