Quote of the Month

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Delight In Deciphering

A personal library with bookcases filled with picture books is evidence of my unwavering love of them.  The depth found in those few pages as a result of a beautiful blend of text and images is a constant source of amazement.  Without question they hold appeal to readers of every age.

Have you ever taken the text from a picture book and written it on a separate piece of paper?  It's a discovery in the power of the written word to create pictures in your mind.  Perhaps this is why my youngest listeners, those who are not yet reading on their own, continually request I read everything on a page of a picture book; the narrative text, the speech bubbles and extra comments uttered as an aside.  They understand the potential found in words.

When they recognize words as you are reading, they are eager to read them along with you or repeat them.  This is not a picture book! (Chronicle Books, May 3, 2016) written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier follows two companions seeking the potential in words.  Their discoveries will fill your reader's heart.

A book!
There are only words in 
this book?
Where are the pictures?!

Needless to say, the duckling is completely distraught with the lack of illustrations in the book he has found.  He is so upset, he kicks it away.  His real affection for books overcomes his anger.  He picks it up and apologizes.

Now seated, puzzling over the words, a bug appears wanting to know what the duckling has.  Since he's told it's a book, the bug wants to know if the duckling can read it.  And this, readers, is where this story, like all good stories, takes us to places familiar and startlingly new.

At first duckling is struggling, words can be tricky.  Studying the pages, he suddenly notices words he knows.  This is one happy duckling!  These words are emotionally charged as he talks about them to the bug.  There are high points and below low points.

Both duckling and bug realize words lift you away from the here and now.  They fashion a cocoon around you, until you emerge changed.  You will remember.

The text is spare; single sentences or phrases, exclamations and questions.  With great care Sergio Ruzzier has selected thoughts he wishes to share with us; thoughts depicting the journey everyone takes when they learn to unfold the meaning of words.  He portrays the frustration and the elation impeccably.  Gently but with purpose he takes us back to where we belong.  Here is an illuminating moment.

Words are so difficult.
Wait! I know some
of these words!

In an act of design brilliance the background for the matching dust jacket and book case is an enlarged portion of another part of the book.  Varying shades of the bright red for the title text are used throughout the book.  On the front the duckling and bookbug are clearly perplexed by what they see on the page.  To the left, on the back, we see a resolution to their difficulties.  The opening and closing endpapers are identical but entirely different.  That is all I will reveal.

Sergio Ruzzier begins the story for us with four pages prior to the title page as the duckling finds, rejects and recovers the book.  These pages and others prior to the duckling and bug crossing a log bridge have a crisp white background.  It is not until the duckling begins to comprehend words that the background is altered.  Now we have the wonderful, whimsical color schemes singular to the work of Ruzzier.

Pastel landscapes, intricate details, fine lines, and soft muted shades define his work.  Quirky creatures; fish with feet, blowing bubble heads, an eye-glass wearing animal with a nose like a flute or a large orange bird with blue-tipped wings and a green head and feet.  Rendered in pen, ink and watercolor these illustrations exude spellbinding charm.

One of my favorite illustrations is for

and peaceful words.

A gorgeous mix of blue, pink, peach and cream clouds swirl above calm waters mirroring the sky.  The duckling is lying in the bottom of a boat near the stern, the book raised in his hands as he reads.  The bug, eyes closed is resting and listening in the bow of the boat.  A green fish looks at them from the water.  The large bird is flying toward them from the upper left-hand corner.  This IS peace.

Whenever I read a book written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier I find myself wanting to hug it.  This is not a picture book! is no exception.  The final sentence, the lingering thought, will have readers sighing.  You will have much in common with the duckling at the conclusion...and the bookbug.  I can't imagine a book collection, personal or professional, without a copy of this book.

To learn more about the work of Sergio Ruzzier please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  By following this link you can use pages provided for you after reading this book.  I predict hours of happy drawing.  Sergio Ruzzier was showcased at Watch. Connect. Read., the blog of the Scholastic Ambassador for School Libraries, John Schumacher.  He chatted about this book, other projects and completed John's sentences.  Sergio Ruzzier was a guest at All The Wonders, Episode 252 with teacher librarian Matthew Winner.  Let Kids Read is a must-read guest post Sergio Ruzzier wrote for the Nerdy Book Club. Sergio Ruzzier and this title are highlighted at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog of author and reviewer Julie Danielson.


  1. I'll definitely re-visit this one, because I seemed to have missed some of these nuances. Thanks, Margie!