Skip to main content

Ballad by Blexbolex, translated by Claudia Z. Bedrick, 280 pp, RL: 2

Ballad marks the second book by Blexbolex to be honored on the New York Times Best Illustrated Picture Book, a list that often features the book that will go on to win the Caldecott or Caldecott Honor for the year. Blexbolex's books were singled out in  2013 and 2010, although, not being an American citizen, his work is not eligible for the award, which is too bad. Ballad is a magically stunning, impossible to categorize, wonder of a little book. You probably can't tell from the cover images above, but Ballad is about 6 inches by 7 inches and an inch and a half thick at 280 pages. The size of the book and the story and illustrations inside inspire you to tuck it in your pocket and pull it out to read, over and over, finding or adding something new each time. 

The structure of Ballad is  especially innovative. There are seven chapters in the book and each one begins with a paragraph or so of text, followed by several full-page illustrations, each with a word or two on them, divided by a comma and a page turn. The number of illustrations between chapters increases as the story unfolds and the pace quickens. One review of Ballad put it so succinctly that I have to quote it here, "The delicious temptation to take an active role in the surreal adventure by adding details or even whole subplots will be hard to resist."

Maria Popova, editor of  Brain Pickings, "a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness," shared a trove of lovely images of and from Ballad (and used throughout my review) in her article Ballad: Beloved French Graphic Artist Blexbolex's Visual Allegory of Life's Evolving Complexity. Of Ballad she wrote, "All throughout, we're invited to reimagine the narrative as we absorb the growing complexity of the world - a beautiful allegory for our walk through life itself." Eloquently and perfectly stated for the many, many adults who will be drawn to this elegant little book. But what will kids make of it?

In my opinion, Ballad is, in many ways, the chapter book version of the amazing picture book Press Here by another innovative and creative Frenchman, Hervé Tullet. In Press Here, Tullet invites readers to perform a new action on every page, the illustrations on the following page corresponding to the instructions. With Ballad Blexbolex invites readers into the story, linking words and images but leaving ample space between for so much more. While I love the idea of a child curling up in a quiet corner with Ballad and slipping into the story, I think that this book begs to be read by a few people at once with everyone contributing to the plot. However you choose to read Ballad, and whoever you choose to give it to, I guarantee that it will become a treasured book!


Source: Review Copy

Brain Pickings by Maria Popova


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…