Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chalking Up Good Reads

Bill Thomson embraced traditional painting techniques and meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils.  His illustrations are not photographs or computer generated images. That is the statement found at the end of Thomson's latest innovative tome for children, Chalk.  It is no surprise to this reader that he felt it necessary to make that declaration.

He begins with his cover artwork; a title drawn in chalk over a park dinosaur ride holding a gift bag decorated with stars and moons which in itself holds the promise of magic to come.
The dedication page is a close up of raindrops falling in a puddle.  As the story unfolds three young friends are walking through the park beneath an umbrella when they notice the bag.  Curiosity compels them to remove it looking inside to find jumbo pieces of colored chalk. 
Taking a yellow piece the first girl draws a sun on the pavement.  Imagine their astonishment when a sun rises from the drawing into the sky, parting the clouds and stopping the rain.  With wide-eyed delight the second girl withdraws an orange colored chalk sketching butterflies that quickly surround them with living monarchs.  The reader next sees the young boy, mischievous glint in his eyes, green chalk in hand.   Boys love dinosaurs.  Our young park goers gasp  and scream as a T-Rex rises from the pathway stalking them as they scurry to safety.  Crawling inside a Jungle Jim tunnel it's this same boy's quick thinking that saves the day with the story ending as it began; the gift bag hanging once more awaiting the next souls brave enough to explore what its contents offer.  The final page shows a rain splattered puddle but this time a monarch flutters across the surface.

It's hard to conceive of a finer example of the wordless picture book.  Without a doubt Bill Thomson's paintings are like the finest photographic gems with two page spreads that liken panoramic views through a camera's lens.  Among these his careful placement of chalk-framed zooms bring the reader closer to the here and now of his tale.  His close-ups capture light, expression and detail like a master's finger pushing the shutter at the precise moment.
Thank you for the gift of this book, Chalk, Mr. Thomson.   To be on the Caldecott committee this year is going to be a challenge.  In my opinion we have another contender. 

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