by Leslie, Everett Public Library staff
Laura Vaccaro Seeger is known as “the queen of the concept book,” and young children around the world are overwhelmingly glad that she creates beautiful books that bring new life to familiar subjects. She is famous for making books that appear simple and straight forward at first glance, but when you look closer they reveal deep, rich layers that enhance your enjoyment. Using signature die-cut art and wonderful painting, readers are invited to take a step back and ‘see’ a concept through fresh eyes. Seeger’s books encourage readers to re-examine the world they think they already understand.
Seeger’s first published work was the American Library Association notable children’s book Walter Was Worried. It’s a great launching pad for discussions about emotions. But wait! Upon closer examination you see that Seeger used the letters from different emotions about a pending storm to make up the facial features of these children. Do you see the w on his cheek, that his mouth is a “D” and his eyes are ‘o’ and ‘e’? Walter really was worried.
Black? White! Day? Night! is a very cool and colorful opposites book. Through a series of ingenious die-cut pages, the reader discovers things that are the opposite of what they seem. The format includes eighteen questions and answers which creates an element of surprise. Kids love surprises and they will surely love this book.
Sara London of the New York Times wrote that the “playground of perception seems to be Seeger’s most natural arena,” calling her picture book, First the Egg “a feat of ingenuity.” Using simple text and illustrations, this book shows how animals and objects change (including tadpoles to frogs and seeds to flowers) in a book with cutouts so that certain colors from the previous picture help create the next picture. This book would be a good spring-board for discussions with small children.
Her book, The Hidden Alphabet, is an outstanding and artful alphabet book. It is a ‘lift-the-flap’ book which is a visual delight. This video gives you an idea of how the flaps lift and reveal the letter: where before there was an object such as an arrowhead (A), balloons (B), and a cloud (C). This book would be an excellent addition to your home book shelf as there’s more to see each time you open it and it really is quite lovely.
Her Dog and Bear books are different from her others in that they are narratives, that is, stories. Each of these books contains three stories about the close friends Dog, who is a dachshund, and Bear, who is, well, a bear. These are wonderful picture book stories for the pre-school set.
One Boy is a die-cut book exploring counting and words-within words. At the start, readers see a sad boy surrounded by empty lonely chairs. At his feet is a bag with paint brushes peeking out. The text reads “ONE boy” which-with a turn of the page and a look through a cleverly cut hole-turns into “all alONE.” Page after page, the book becomes populated with seals, apes, and monkeys, all examples of words-within-words. Finally, we come back to “ONE boy” who is “all dONE,” and we discover where all the characters came from.
What If? is like one of those movies where different choices cause different endings. What if a boy found a beach ball and kicked it into the ocean? What if two seals found it and began to play? What if a third seal appeared on the beach looking for a friend? Enjoy this visit to the beach and the chance to guess what happens when different choices are made.
This is a video of her picture book, Green. Challenged by her editor to create a book with this title, Seeger kicked around the idea and thought of the environment at first, but then settled on the color green and all its many permutations. I was expecting the typical shades of green but was pleasantly surprised to see the clever takes on wacky green, slow green, and no green at all. This book seems to be asking, “How many different ways can you look at the color green?”
In her most recent work, Bully, there is a bull who doesn’t know how to make friends. He’s been bullied by the other bulls and when asked to play by some other animals responds in the same way. He puffs himself up and calls them all names until one little goat stands up to him and calls him a bully. Then he realizes the way that he’s been acting. He returns to his regular size, no longer puffed up and mean, and apologizes to them. Luckily, they are still willing to play with him. With the book having few words, most of the bullying is conveyed by the artwork and the bull’s posture and size. While capturing the feeling of being bullied, this book also shows that if you are bullying others, you can self-correct and still be friends.
I can hardly wait to see what fabulous book Seeger will come up with next, but in the meantime, come on down to the Everett Public Library and check out her books!