Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books


Spring 2007 Picture Books
Ages: Infant
Author: Barbara Lehman
Illustrator: Barbara Lehman
ISBN: 978-0618-75639-1
The cover of this wordless book sets up the story’s dynamics perfectly: the reader stares into a window of a Victorian mansion filled, quite improbably, with puffy white clouds and a brilliant blue sky. Staring back is the face of a young boy who looks out onto a gray landscape made grayer by slanting rain. Seemingly confined not only by the elements but by his short trousers, firmly knotted tie, and slicked down hair, he begins to listlessly kick a red striped ball (introduced prominently on the pre-title page) down portrait-filled galleries, past helmeted statuary, and under dainty cabriole-legged furniture. The discovery of an old-fashioned key under one of the chairs sets the adventure in motion, unlocking a chest which conceals a secret passage that leads to an off-shore island, a lighthouse, three considerably more rambunctious children and a bouncy dog. After an afternoon of kite-flying, sandcastle building, and snacks, sunset sends him back to his ordinary existence. Lehman uses color effectively to convey the transition from one reality to another, her muted palette of browns, mosses and ochres giving way, abruptly, to sky blues, emerald greens, and fire-engine reds. Her use of line is equally deft: the straight edges of the doorways, stairs and pedestals dissolve and are replaced by a staircase shaped like a chambered nautilus, gracefully arched doorways, and a tumbling landscape. Not, perhaps, a new story, but one exquisitely told.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2007 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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