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MIRROR

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 9 years, 7 months ago

30 June 2010 MIRROR by Jeannie Baker, Candlewick, November 2010, 48p., ISBN: 978-0-7636-4848-0

 

"People come in different sizes, colors, shapes, and names'

Though we're different on the outside, inside I think we're the same."

-- Peter Alsop, "The Kid's Peace Song"

 

"There are two boys and two families in this book.  One family lives in a city in Australia, and one lives in Morocco, North Africa.  The lives of the two boys and their families look very different from each other, and they are different.  But some things connect them just as some things are the same for all families no matter where they live."

 

So reads the introduction to MIRROR by Jeannie Baker.  The introduction is written in English on the first page of the left-hand bound portion of the book (the part of the book in which the pages turn from right to left).  I assume that the Arabic text on the first page of the right-hand bound portion of the book says the same thing.  (The pages in that part of the book turn from left to right.)  Apart from this introduction in two languages, MIRROR is a wordless text, and one that speaks volumes.

 

Back in first grade, at an all-white suburban Long Island elementary school, they divided our class into two groups.  The other half learned a Mexican hat dance.  Our half of the class donned cone-shaped paper hats, held paper lanterns, and practiced a Chinese dance.  We eventually performed these dances for our parents and other students during an assembly.  I learned from this process that Chinese people looked and dressed very different from me; were stiff and weird; and walked around with lanterns. 

 

(I also learned how pretty my classmate Debra Carney looked when wearing makeup.)

 

As a result of my experience in first grade, I am always disappointed to encounter programming or lessons that only portray differences in cultures -- how strange things are elsewhere -- while failing to illuminate any of the commonalities shared by people everywhere.

 

This desirable balance of diversity and commonality -- which helps achieve a respecting, acknowledging, and understanding of differences between cultures -- is exactly what is so vividly portrayed in MIRROR, a book I am dying to get into the hands of today's first graders.  

 

The manner in which one reads MIRROR is to put the book down and open the cover; turn the top page on each side simultaneously (one to the left, the other to the right); and begin exploring the depictions of the lives of the two boys and their families within the side-by-side multi-paneled illustrations. 

 

Jeannie Baker has a unique style; her stunning and colorful collage constructions are readily recognizable.  Baker incorporates a good number of details into her illustrations.  I've watched young readers pour over the detail-filled I SPY style books, and her eye-catching side-by-side illustrations in MIRROR will be similarly attractive to young readers.

 

For instance, I love the spread where, on the left, we see customers moving about a typical building materials retail warehouse-style establishment.  On the right, we drink in the details of an open air market from which one can almost smell the wafting scents of spices in open bags on the ground and fruit piled up; and hear the bleating of a lamb being held; of the chickens restrained by strings attached to their legs; and of the conversations ensuing.

 

We turn pages and witness meal times and sleep times and play times, and through this process we perceive how inside we are the same.  One can readily imagine these two boys meeting up someday and kicking around a soccer ball at a park.

 

The book's final spread depicts how the digital world of the 21st century has enabled the Moroccan boy to learn what life in distant parts of the planet on which he lives looks like. 

 

Different and the same.   

 

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
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http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php

FTC NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written after reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these review copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his booktalks at schools and libraries.

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