Some of my favorite picture books are the ones that make you look very closely at the illustrations to tell the full story. There are some great examples of that this year, and two, in particular, stand out as among the best.
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen team up in Sam and Dave Dig a Hole for a story that seems simple, but that’s only if you’re not paying attention. In this book, Sam and Dave are going to dig a hole, and they are going to keep digging a hole until they find something spectacular. They dig and dig and dig and find nothing at all. Of course, the reader knows what they are missing because we have the cross-section view that shows the treasures that are so close to the boys, yet remain buried. The unexpected ending in this book will have kids laughing, and readers who look closely at the illustrations will be debating the potential interpretations of the last page of this fantastic story. (9780763662295. Oct 2014. Gr. Ps-3)
Peter Brown’s new book, My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not), is all about perception and how that can change with context. Bobby does not like his teacher. He thinks Ms. Kirby is a monster. And she looks like one too! In the illustrations her skin is green and her features are cartoonishly scary. But one day Bobby runs into Ms. Kirby at a park. At first, it’s awkward. But soon the two actually get to know each other. Eventually Ms. Kirby doesn’t seem quite so monstrous anymore. The change in the illustrations is so gradual that you might not notice that anything has changed until Ms. Kirby seems as human as you or me. (9780316070294. July 2014. Gr. Ps-3)
Just because I happen to love this kind of book, here is a short list of older titles in which the illustrations tell the rest of the story:
Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle. 9780525471295. 2004. Gr. Ps-1 – A boy wants a dog, but he has to settle for a dragon when his mom says no to the dog. Watch for signs that the boy and the dragon might be in it together.
Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb. 9780763661304. 2013. Gr. Ps-3 – Readers can see that what Bernadette says is an elephant is really a teapot and the boat is really a banana. But that’s just part of the fun of Bernadette.
Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Konnecke. 9781877467370. 2011. Gr. Ps-1 – Anton thinks he can do magic, but readers can see that there is nothing magical going on.
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo. 9780803734135. 2012. Gr. K-3 – The surprise ending will have readers flipping back through the illustrations throughout the book to see what they missed.
Can you think of any others to add to this list?