john's elephant | 36

How This Book Was Made

by Mac Barnett, pictures by Adam Rex

Published 2016. Another fun meta-read on picture books. The illustrations are such a delight to look at. They have such a large range of mediums and creative concoctions. The story was fun and informative. Now as an adult, I love this book. I would have loved it even more as a child. Especially during my 5th-grade project to create our own picture books. I would’ve enjoyed it even more in 1st and 2nd grade. When I was creating books from spiral paper noodles and doodles. I love the uniqueness of this book. The story it captures is informative, but also creative and imaginative.

Have you seen Elephant?

by David Barrow

Published 2015. Very easy book, with a big energy of ‘THE ELEPHANT IS RIGHT THERE, I SEE IT, IT’S RIGHT THERE, JUST LOOK!’ as everyone else in the book is clueless to this elephant that so obviously is in the picture. I enjoyed the book. But, I think it would’ve been fun to go a bit deeper. Perhaps sneak something into the illustrations that wouldn’t be revealed until the very end. This would make the reader more like the characters in the book. Because they are focused on something else, they wouldn’t notice something so obvious. Just a thought though.

The Hog Prince

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Jason Wolff

Published 2009. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It follows a hog under a spell. The hog then proceeds to go from woman to woman, smooching them, trying to turn into a prince. The art was fine, but not to my taste. However, it was finished well. Some illustrations were a bit repetitive from spread to spread.

John’s Turn

by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kate Berube

Published 2022. I had already read this book. I typically enjoy Mac Barnett’s books. I tend to usually read whatever his latest releases are.) I enjoyed the artwork in this book. The lovely balance of organic and free-flowing shapes with the linework works. The colors are very calming and fitting for the moral of this story. I love the moments in the text that some editors might think aren’t necessary. For this book, we leave them in, creating an authentic experience of school and the story. One of my favorite examples is, “What’s John gonna do?” Andre asked without raising his hand." or “It’s called ‘Sharing Gifts.’ A lot of us think that’s a kind of dumb name,”. Most of all, the respect to put in “A bunch of kids laughed.” This moment arrives when John is most nervous, right as he starts his dance. It’s the continued respect for the audience that makes this story stand out. It creates a believable experience and makes it a must-read book. What follows this scene is a great example of ‘Show Don’t Tell’. We get wordless spreads of beautiful illustrations of John dancing. “Then it was our turn. We clapped.”

Just Because

by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Published 2019. I enjoyed the subtleness of the illustration style in this book. The subdued vintage colors pair perfectly with the gritty grey/black washes and textures. The story weaves together for both adults and children. It takes us on a whimsical journey that starts with the child’s constant questions. We end with a perfect line I won’t spoil. A perfect bedtime tale.

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