Tomorrow, along with reviews of three brilliant wordless picture books, I will re-post an article I wrote back in November of 2008 titled "How to Read a Book Without Words (Out Loud)." But first, Arthur Geister's newest picture book which also happens to be wordless! Ice is part of a superb new series of books being published by Enchanted Lion Books called Stories Without Words, and Geisert's next book, Big Seed, will be the fifth book in this innovative series. Books one through three, all by the wonderful Bèatrice Rodriguez, will be reviewed tomorrow as well.
With Ice, we revisit Geisert's Pig Universe, which Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes brilliantly describes with the venn diagram at left. Fantasy, reality and pigs all intersect to tackle a problem with the use of Geisert's intricately illustrated, infinitely entertaining Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions. As Pamela Paul writes in her review of Ice for The New York Times Book Review, interactive books (traditionally thought of as lift-the-flap books that can illicit call-and-response audience participation when read aloud) demand "to be something more than just read [and] it doesn't always take elaborate production design to get children to participate." Paul goes on to review Ice as well as Hervé Tullet's brilliant Press Here, two very different interactive books, which she refers to as being "elegantly conceived," and really able to get the audience involved.
One thing I love about Geisert's books, whether it is a story set on a farm like Haystack or one set in the Pig Universe like The Giant Ball of String or Ice, is his appreciation for the natural world and how it works. While his pigs are always coming up with all sorts of contraptions that get them what they want, these structures and conveyances always employ aspects of nature to meet their ends in one way or another. In this wordless story we meet a community of pigs living on an island that is baked by the sun. A look inside the brick reservoir set at the highest point on the island reveals a shrinking water supply.
Not to worry! The pigs have a special air ship that takes them across the ocean to an icy archipelago where they pick up an iceberg, add a sail and a rudder, and head towards home.
While the white orb behind the ship is most likely a full moon, upon seeing this page my son exclaimed, "Someone is watching them through a telescope!" and we talked about who might be watching the pigs. This is exactly what I love about wordless picture books, the audience ability to interpret the story personally, adding a new perspective to the narrative.
The iceberg arrives back at the sunny island and the industrious pigs get to work, male and female alike. Even those girl pigs in dresses can be seen sawing and hauling! This equal sharing of the work is evident in Geisert's books with human characters as well.
The book ends with one final contraption, a swamp cooler of sorts. The pigs set a chunk of ice in a wading pool with a fan blowing over it and directly into the door of their tent. Inside, the family is gathered around the table, sharing glasses of ice water and looking at their globe. These pigs know how to stick together, work together and enjoy the fruits of their labor together - three of the most important life lessons I can think of! Bravo to Arthur Geisert and to Enchanted Lion Books for their new series of Stories Without Words and especially for keeping this magnificent artist and storyteller in print!
Coming in 2012 from Enchanted Lion Books, the next book in the Stories Without Words Series, Big Seed!