Friday, 10 January 2014

review: What's Your Favorite Animal?

by Eric Carle and Friends
Henry Holt & Co. BFYR, January 21 2014
picture book anthology
review copy received via publisher (thank you!)

Your favourite picture book illustrators have drawn all sorts of animals before. But what are their favourites? This all-star line-up of children’s book artists offers 14 different full-page spreads of animals drawn in the distinct style of each, accompanied by a short text explaining their choice, or even spinning their animal a story of its own.
The cover:

I’m not the biggest fan of the amount of white space left around the centrepiece illustration, but it is Eric Carle’s signature style, so one supposes one can’t complain. The two fonts used are simple and fun, and so complement this picture book nicely.

The book:

I am not as well-versed as I would like to be in the recent history of picture books, so I cannot definitively say whether this anthology is truly ground-breaking. But if there ever was a revolutionary anthology, it would be What’s Your Favorite Animal?, which brings illustration, storytelling and multiple authors together in a sublimely wonderful way.

Firstly, the premise. What’s your favourite animal? is such a ubiquitous, accessible question that it’s the perfect venue for each illustrator to share a small masterpiece. This unassuming prompt also paves the way for tidbits of beautiful stories from the illustrators to go along with the humourous jokes and rhymes. Stand-out texts include Peter Sís’s blue carp of hope as a Czech Republic tradition, Nick Bruel’s iconic Kitty on octopuses and Eric Carle, Lane Smith’s exchange with an elephant and Erin Stead’s penguins:
I like how penguins seem confidently awkward on land but then glide so swiftly and expertly underwater. I think I relate to that a little.
The variety in illustrations is like an immensely fabulous massage for your eyes. Eric Carle starts it all off with his print-and-scratch painting style, then we move to cartoon-esque line and crayon drawings until Chris Raschka takes it all the way to a complete 2-page watercolour spread. Rosemary Wells and Nick Bruel break their pages into comic-style boxes, while Jon Klassen’s adorable upside-down duck curls around his poetry-like text and Susan Jeffers’s roiling white horses are awash with line-stroke shading. And this variety is where the genius of a picture book anthology becomes clear: seeing so much quality art within the pages of one book makes everything seem even better.

What’s Your Favorite Animal? is appropriate for all ages. Because really, the world needs to be exposed to a picture book anthology as beautiful as this one.

Ethnic balance: N/A.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5