Who doesn't love a little mystery or a puzzle to solve? Secret code books have consistently been popular titles in the nonfiction section of school libraries. Students are amazing in their ability to discover answers because they think outside the box without the constraints adults seem to acquire. Not only do they like to decipher problems, especially if they can be seen as a game or quest, but they like to create them for someone else to figure out.
Queen of colorful collage illustrations, Caldecott Honor winner for Color Zoo, and maker of marvelous titles for the very youngest readers, Lois Ehlert, has a new book. Heart to Heart (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, January 3, 2016) is like holding happiness in your hands. Its cleverness is cozy and comfortable; a rebus brimming with puns.
On the first two page illustration we read in our minds
I've been thinking of you.
Ehlert shows it as
I've (two string beans side by side as cross-sections showing the beans) thinking of U. She follows this with a question shortened by using two single letters in place of two words.
An avocado continues to express the affection one being feels for the other. This individual is quiet but has decided to speak playfully perhaps roaming the stalls of a market for inspiration. From endearments an invitation is declared with hope for an affirmative answer.
An explanation follows as to the emotional state felt by the speaker before finding this soul mate. Then more pages are dedicated to fruitful revelations of devotion. Seeing this kindred spirit generates complete bliss in the narrator
from my head down tomatoes (A trio of tomatoes is pictured.)
Vegetables are part of further inquiries. These are followed by two objects from the outside natural world before the vegetables make an appearance again as final sentences offer possibilities. Will 1 ♥ reach another ♥?
Considering how long it took me to fashion the title of this blog post, I can't even begin to speculate on the amount of time each sentence formed with vegetables, fruits, numbers and single letters took the masterful Lois Ehlert. As you read each one you can't help but wonder how she might have done this. The entire narrative is a conversation, a love letter, to the other individual. What's fabulous is each thought is flawlessly tied to the next one without feeling forced. It's completely sincere and open although very funny. To provide pacing she sometimes splits one sentence between two pictures. Here's one of those sentences shown in two separate images.
Whenever U turnip, (A turnip is featured.) (page turn)
lime (A picture of a lime is shown.) ha P U R there.
Younger gals and guys are going to gravitate toward the six inch by six inch trim size of the title immediately. This dimension, the vibrant colors, heart symbol and the number 2 are an open invitation...read me, read me, read me. To the left on the back of the matching dust jacket and book case on a background of golden yellow, Ehlert was written
Who do U ♥?
The title page is part of the opening endpapers. The publication information is part of the closing endpapers. Classic background colors used by Ehlert are different with every page turn, turquoise, red, pink, darker turquoise, red again, purple, grass green, golden yellow and back to red before another color shift is shown. Her fonts for words and single letters and numbers are larger for her intended audience.
Next to each vegetable and fruit she has spelled out their name. Cut papers form the rebus elements. I can easily hear listeners calling out the specific items before the sentences are read.
One of my favorite two illustrations of several is near the beginning of the book. On the darker turquoise canvas a sliced avocado is followed by
crush on U,
before you turn the page. Red reaches out to you with the words and symbol saying
but my ♥ is shy.
Whether you snuggle up close and read this one on one or with a group of students in a story circle or projected on a white board, Heart to Heart written and illustrated by a true children's literature treasure, Lois Ehlert, is a book you will joyfully place on your professional and personal bookshelves. This offers the opportunity to talk about words, how to play with words and objects, how to express friendship and declare love. This book is a classic gem.
To see interior images of this book please visit the publisher's website. To learn more about Lois Ehlert and this title you might enjoy reading a recent interview at Publishers Weekly. Lois Ehlert was interviewed by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at BookPage several years ago. She was also showcased at The Horn Book about the same time. Earlier interviews at Reading Rockets can be viewed here.