Friday, June 3, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Do You See What I See?


The school where I first began teaching elementary-aged students did not have an art teacher. Some classes were lucky enough to have a parent volunteer come in a few times a month and do activities with the children, but there were not enough volunteers to go around. So I had to do my own art lessons. One of the first lessons I did was to read the students Harold and the Purple Crayon and talk with them about how such seemingly simple illustrations actually involved a lot of thought. That line from the purple crayon could be round like the apples on the trees or the pies for the picnic. But the line could also be the teeth of the wild animals or the rough waves that cause Harold to fall overboard. 

If only I had owned a copy of Do You See What I See? back then! Helen Borten's classic picture book covers everything I showed my class during those early art lessons. She discusses lines, shapes, colors, and how they can vary, what they remind us of, and the moods they evoke. And just like Crockett Johnson's drawings, her illustrations are deceptively simple at first glance. But her combination of a few bright colors, drawings, and some shapes that are printed (did she use screens or blocks, I wonder), creates a clean and attractive style. Some readers might see it as retro chic, but it was very fresh at the time of the original publication. Her text is poetic and evocative. It makes connections between art and design and everyday sights without being trite or didactic. For instance, "It seems to me that triangles push and pull in a stiff, hard way." Or how about this one - "Lines can be as ragged as a barbed wire fence, or as smooth as the thread in Mother's sewing box."

I cannot wait to add this book to our school library, and to introduce it to the art teacher (if he hasn't already seen it). Parents and teachers should make sure to share this with the young readers and artists in their lives, along with Borten's other books. It's so wonderful to know that these books will be available to a whole new generation due to their republication. Way to go, Flying Eye Books!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

*Update 08/01/2016 We have added this book to the Fairview library. 

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