While This is not a picture book! is only the fourth book I have reviewed by Sergio Ruzzier, I have read many more, including his work with the wonderful Eve Bunting and Emily Jenkins, and I have to say, his newest is my favorite and closest to my heart. This is not a picture book! reads like a love letter to everyone who believes in the transformative power of reading, and it is one that I will read often, to myself and out loud to my students.
This is not a picture book! begins with Duck happily discovering a book, well before the title page. Elation turns to frustration when Duck realizes that there are ONLY WORDS in this book! Bug arrives and asks if Duck can read this offensive book with no pictures, to which Duck replies, "I'm not sure." Up until this page, Duck, the book and Bug are shown on a white background. When Duck answers, the two page illustration shows the white background on the left hand side, with a crevasse and colorful terrain on the verso. A log bridge connects the two, and as Duck walks across it, muttering, "Words are so difficult," and the journey of decoding and learning to read begins!
And what a journey it is! The landscape changes as Duck reads words that are funny, sad, wild and peaceful. While This is not a picture book! is about reading books without pictures, Ruzzier's illustrations are perfectly paired with the spare but powerful text and, as always, his world is one that I love to visit. Colorful curiosities abound as Duck and Bug walk and read, and visual clues that help emerging readers decode. In the final pages of This is not a picture book!, Ruzzier captures perfectly how I feel when I read a good book, "All these words carry you away and then they bring you home where they stay with you forever." And, in a brilliant design touch, the front endpapers of This is not a picture book! are a spread of text, mostly garbled, and, if you have pre, emerging or struggling readers at home, I strongly encourage you to skim it closely. Reading is like breathing for me - I rarely think about it. Skimming the front endpapers with decodable sight words sprinkled here and there helped me understand what so many of my students experience when they open a book. It is good to be reminded of the challenge. The endpapers of This is not a picture book! is worth reading as well! It is the story of Duck and Bug and the book that they find. It is yet another testament to Ruzzier's gift as a writer. He can craft a powerful picture book with less than 100 words and he can write a picture-less story that is equally engaging, using the words to paint the pictures in the head of the reader.
Source: Review Copy