I begin with Barbara Lehman, illustrator of children’s picture books. She has illustrated at least eight other books written by other writers, including Abracadabra to Zigzag: An Alphabet Book by Nancy Lecourt and Susan Whitcher, Moonfall by Susan Whitcher. In this illustrator study, I will be reviewing the books she self-illustrated: The Red Book, Museum Trip, and Rainstorm.
I must admit, I’m fascinated by wordless picture books. Give me a fascinating David Wiesner or Barbara Lehman tale done completely in pictures, and I’m hooked. I think it’s because as a reader or a viewer, I can take part in deciding so much of the story myself.
I like Lehman's wordless picture books because her stories really capture the imagination of a child. Each child in the three books I’m reviewing this week are whisked away by their own imaginations, which leads them to places only imaginations can take them. And isn’t that the beauty of childhood?
The Red Book
Illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Houghton Mifflin, 2004
This book is probably one of the most easily recognized of Barbara Lehman’s book, probably because it got attention when it won a Caldecott honor. We follow a child who finds a red book in the snow. She takes it with her, and when she opens it up, she finds a map. The child imagines herself in the map, walking around the island. On that same island, a boy finds a red book. He opens it up and sees a picture of a snowy city. Then the little girl sees the boy looking at the book looking at her. Confused? In other words, they see each other through red books.
The girl finds a man selling balloons on the street and she buys them all. She loses the red book on her attempt to fly away to the island. She does reach the island and finds her friend. But someone else has picked up the red book she lost.
This book reminds me very much of the concept of Flotsam (by David Wiesner, Houghton Mifflin, 2006) because of how children are connected through their sense of imagination.
I really like how Barbara Lehman makes it easy to follow the characters in her book and see what they are seeing, but also giving us perspective. I have been studying some older wordless picture books. Many of them have so much on a page that it’s more like reading “Where’s Waldo” and hunting for the character on a busy page rather than feeling connected to a character on their journey. I don’t feel like that with modern wordless picture books, and especially not with Lehman’s work. Her characters are front and center and I am easily pulled into their stories of imagination and where they might take me…
For interesting tidbits about Barbara Lehman, see this site.