July 26, 2018


Look. By Fiona Woodcock. Greenwillow/HarperCollins. $17.99.

Twinkle, Twinkle, You’re My Star! By Sandra Magsamen. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $7.99.

     The balloon-bedecked front cover of Fiona Woodcock’s Look is only the beginning of a very clever zoo-trip book. Ooh! That’s the wraparound cover with the balloons – the actual covers of the book itself, both front and back, show butterflies instead. Big, colorful, happily smiling ones. Ooh again! Smooth book groovily festooned – boosts outdoors – whoopee! So…what exactly is going on here? The answer is something pretty “cool”: the book is told almost entirely with words containing the letters “oo.” And its art is special, too: Woodcock (notice the “oo” in her name) digitally manipulates combinations of stencils, rubber stamps and ink-scattering BLO pens (blowing into them releases the ink inside in a kind of pointillism). The result is a book that has a wholly conventional plot but that neither looks nor sounds like most picture books as it takes a brother and sister through a zoo-trip day where they start with food, put on boots, zoom to the zoo by car, see the kangaroo and cockatoo and baboon, hear a dog go “woof-woof,” and so on. True, Woodcock eventually needs a few words without the “oo,” so she can have the animals waving good-bye to the kids on a page saying “see you soon” and can eventually have the kids, now back at home, fall happily asleep to the words “good night.” But these few deviations aside, the book is very effectively told with “oo” words that fit quite nicely indeed with the illustrations, at least some of which will likely have young readers exclaiming “oo!”

     The words are of all sorts in the latest cleverly designed board book by Sandra Magsamen, Twinkle, Twinkle, You’re My Star! But here as in her other books, Magsamen offers something in the design that is unusual to look at and fun to play with. Yes, play with – in addition to the simple text, clearly intended for a parent to read to a very young child, the book features a tightly-bound-in star-shaped finger puppet right smack in the middle of all the pages. An adult pokes a finger into the back of the book to animate the soft, smiling, yellow star, which “participates” in the text of every page: “Twinkle, twinkle, little one, your precious life has just begun,” for example, and “you fill the world with hope and light,” and so forth. The drawings on the pages through which the star pokes complement both the writing and the little puppet: on one page are three other yellow stars, all of them smiling down on a lawn and tree; on another page a “tail” attaches to the finger puppet, turning it into a shooting star; on another the three drawn yellow stars are surrounded by rays indicating how brightly they shine, and additional rays surround the space through which the finger puppet emerges so it too shines extra-brightly. Magsamen is an expert at these designs, which allow very short board books – sometimes in unusual shapes, such as the heart shape of this one – to become interactive delights for adults, infants and toddlers. And the books are so well-made that when kids outgrow them and move on to books for slightly older children, the pages and finger puppets will likely have lost none of their attractiveness, allowing them to be passed along to a younger sibling, or even to a new family that will find them equally delightful. Magsamen herself is one of the stars of Twinkle, Twinkle, You’re My Star!

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