Friday, November 16, 2012



I love picture books. I love the books for their own sake and not only because I use them when I work with children, I just love them. Unless they are the dumb ones. So, as I begin to highlight some of my favorites, I'm going to warn you now that my personal tastes in picture books lean towards the odd, darkly humorous, silly, bizarre and wacky. But just because these are my favorites doesn't mean I choose them for storytime at the library. Which is not to say that I haven't chosen them, either.

One of my favorite books to look at and to laugh at was introduced to me by my sister-in-law. When I first read the hilarious and slightly disturbing When the Wind Changed (1980), written and illustrated by Australians Ruth Park and Deborah Niland respectively, was a bit too much (read: gruesome) for my then preschooler. But I relish in the twisted, fleshy illustrations and almost avant-gardist absurdity, and find myself laughing out loud no matter how many times I've read it. And the text is composed of understated humor and straight-faced wit, giving the book a word/image combination that produces the best kind of storytelling.

As I read through When the Wind Changed today to write this post, I asked myself why I like it - why it's so funny to me. And I suppose a major part of it is how ugly Josh's face gets. It's funny because it's so uncomfortable to look at, for the other characters in the book, and for the reader. Does that mean I'm also laughing at ugliness in general? Maybe my thoughts are a bit heavy on this topic because I recently read R.J. Palacio's humorous and thoughtful book Wonder (2012), in which the main character was born with and lives everyday with a facial deformity, despite having gone through several facial surgeries. I don't necessarily want to bring up questions of political correctness, sensitivity, and what we should or shouldn't laugh at, but it did make me stop and think. And I decided that it's okay and it's funny and I bet even Auggie would get a kick out of this picture book.

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