Two glorious wordless picture books on the review docket! But first, a slight preamble:
I think I have previously reflected that authors and illustrators perform incredible feats in carrying out wordless picture books: plotting and mapping a story, holding interest, moving from beginning, middle, climax/reveal, to end, all without words to propel and prompt. Wordless picture books can be somewhat of a misunderstood/under-read category of picture books, and when I read treasures like Professional Crocodile and Lines, it pains me to think readers might miss out on so much! In my time so far as a children’s librarian I have heard kids being discouraged from checking out wordless picture books by adults saying they’re “too easy” or “not challenging enough”– essentially, boiling down to the argument of ‘without words to test you, what’s the point?’ Well, as someone who advocates and adores the category, I would like make the case that there is indeed marvel, challenge, curiosity and joy in sharing and experiencing wordless picture books! Let’s take a closer look now at two stellar examples:
Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Mr. Crocodile loves his job. Every morning he gets up with an alarm. He brushes his teeth. He chooses the right tie to match his outfit, eats a quick slice of toast, and heads off to work on a crowded train. But what exactly is his job? The answer may surprise you! Readers will want to pore over this witty, wordless book again and again, finding new details and fresh stories with every reading.
Professional Crocodile is one of those picture books that I am delighted to have read and experienced. Prior to reading this wordless picture book, I had seen snippets of the book from other reviewers, thought the book looked gorgeous and added it my must-read. I was very fortunate to be surprised with a copy of it and can now quite confidently say that it is indeed a marvelous picture book.
We meet Mr. Crocodile as he wakes up to a new day in his dapper pajamas. As we join Mr. Crocodile and follow him about, readers see that by all accounts, he is a careful, elegant, well put together character. We see Mr. Crocodile do everything from taking a crowded train, to enjoying a whiff of food stuff so fragrant and delicious that it begs his purchase, to purchasing lovely flowers to surprise a young woman. But where exactly is Mr. Crocodile’s day taking him? We then get our answer as Mr. Crocodile surprises with a reveal of where he works and what his job is! A straightforward premise told in a supremely innovative and clever way here, Professional Crocodile is one of those reads that begs for multiple reads and studies. I have pored over this book now multiple times beginning to end and have found new facets and details each time that make Professional Crocodiles ending that much more marvelous.
Some of my personal favourites in children’s lit- Shaun Tan, Molly Idle, David Wiesner, Suzy Lee, to name but a few- are masters of the wordless book, and Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio’s work here is on par with that excellence. Professional Crocodile is a truly exceptional, clever, out of the ordinary story and experience for readers of all ages.
It starts with a line. Whether made by the tip of a pencil or the blade of a skate, the magic starts there.
And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.
Since first reading (and rereading) Suzy Lee’s award-winning wordless picture books Wave, Mirror, and Shadow in succession, I have been a dedicated fan of the author-illustrator’s work. Sophisticated, experimental yet approachable for all ages of reader, Lee’s work is sublime, surprising and something to behold. In her latest wordless picture book Lines, Suzy Lee starts with the glide of a pencil tip to tell a gently- quietly- ebullient and ingenious tale.
Like a story within a story, Lines has layers and dimensions that draws the reader in and plays with perceptions about a story’s narrative, artwork, interruptions in reader experience, and how artists can turn a supposed slip back into something picture-perfect. Readers fall under the spell of an ice skater, watching as their blade cuts more and more lines of various width, shape, and weight into the ice. As the skater’s moves become more complicated, we see the ice become a patchwork of busier and busier carved lines until the ice skater leaps into a jump, spins in the air and— then– the story stops, restarts, and finishes in wonderful and surprising ways. Lee plays here so well with format and dimension, testing and nudging the reader into experiencing the story as both a journey of an artist working their way through a story and a standalone wintry narrative.
Lee’s work in Lines is terrific, thoughtful and understated brilliance, and I continue to be such a fan of her work. If you haven’t yet had a chance to explore Suzy Lee’s work, I highly recommend taking a look through the artist’s entire oeuvre up to and including this latest treat.
I received copies of Professional Crocodile and Lines courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.