September 24, 2009

(++++) GET GOING!

Watch Me Go! Text by Rebecca Young. Illustrations by Von Glitschka. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $12.99.

Move! By Steve Jenkins & Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $7.99.

Star Wars: Spaceships. Lucas Books/Scholastic. $7.99.

     Von Glitschka’s amazing lenticular animation – a process that makes still pictures appear to move realistically – gets better all the time. His previous collaboration with Rebecca Young – Watch Me Hop! – showed animals in motion. Now he has moved on to machines in Watch Me Go! And the results are fascinating. There are just eight illustrations in the new book – the lenticular-animation process is expensive and requires double-thick pages – but each is amazing to see again and again. A dump truck pours its load at a construction site; a race car speeds around the track, appearing to get closer to the reader as the page is moved; a diesel-engine train also moves closer, its headlight seeming to shine right into the reader’s eyes; a fire engine raises its ladder to help put out a blaze. Young’s text is very simple, suitable for the youngest readers or for parents reading to toddlers: “I’m a digger. My treads go around. Watch me GO move the ground!” But the illustrations are the big attraction here – parents should expect kids to ask how they can possibly move like that, and will probably have the same question themselves.

     A similar but less sophisticated movement effect adorns the cover of Move! A rabbit seems to leap from left to right, pushing the “M” of the title off toward the left as a result. This is cute, but it is not the main point of this book, which focuses more on text than pictures and has more to do with education than with the sheer wonder of illustrations. In fact, except for the cover, Move! is illustrated simply with collages of cut and torn paper. The pictures show animals that move in different ways – and the text connects each animal to the next. A gibbon swings, for example – and also walks on its back legs. Next, a bird called a lily trotter walks on floating lily pads – and then dives to catch a fish. After this, a blue whale makes a deep dive – and swims in the ocean depths. Through the illustrations and the brief interconnected comments, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page give behavioral information on animals from the roadrunner to the jumping spider to the penguin – and suggest, at the end, that human children can move in all the ways that these animals do. That is an interesting observation and a fine conclusion to a book that is thoughtful as well as clever.

     Star Wars: Spaceships is not quite at the level of the other books – it gets a (+++) rating – but it certainly has plenty of (implied) movement. There is actually a spaceship in Watch Me Go! – a real-world design – but Star Wars: Spaceships is a board book devoted entirely to fantasy. Every page has lovingly rendered versions of ships from the Star Wars universe, including the Millennium Falcon, TIE fighter, X-Wing and more. And every page contains a comic-book-style action word: “Zoom!” “Zip!” “Zap!” “Boom!” The motion here is implied, as is the action; clearly, the book is aimed at young fans of George Lucas’ Star Wars films. For them, it will be fun for a while. But they are more likely to tire of it quickly than to become bored with books that present motion in more interesting ways or use it as a basis for some gentle education.

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