Children's Book Reviews

Monday, December 26, 2011

Layers of Thought

I was recently sent an unusual, compelling picture book. It is one of those books you can't say "no" to, reading it in-between holiday busyness! It's one I hope gets into the hands of many children, teachers, book shops, and librarians.

When Comes What Darkly Thieves is a handsome picture book reminiscent of the poetry-prose and illustrations of Kenneth Patchen and the illustrations of Charles Keeping. It is an insistent book in that it won’t let you put it down or let you stop thinking of the layers of meaning and nuances it holds within the deceptive slimness of the picture book format.

Author and illustrator Ben Rubin has managed to write a book that is intriguing for all ages from eight or ten to ninety eight. The literary prose dips into poetic form with word phrases that make the reader ponder and also think, “Brilliant!” The collage illustrations with deep mood, dark, and dream-like closely follow the text, marrying with it the tale of the Kind of Gypsies stealing moonbeams from the protagonist’s eyes. It is important for children to experience the darker tones of the color spectrum.

A teacher presenting a poetry unit has such a richness of material to draw upon, asking students questions, such as “What could ‘I want to be a trout.’ mean?” Or, “What would you feel as a trout?” This gives young people a wonderful platform to think outside the traditional box of poetry and write their own imaginative tales, dark or light, taking off from questions such as the one above. Parents will delight in reading aloud and discussing the book with their children. Or, how about making up one’s own tales and constructing collages on a long automobile journey or on a long holiday based on this tale? This is a must have, forever, book for one’s bookshelf.


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