There is something about the sensibility of picture books I read that are created by an Italian, French, Spanish and even British author/illustrators. They seem to take kids a bit more seriously, sharing ideas without talking down to the audience. There is no saccharine, no talking down to the audience. The illustrations even have a fine art feel to them at times. So, when you open the covers of What Is a Child? by Beatrice Alemagna, author and illustrator of the charming The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy, you know you are in for something a little different.
What is a child? Alemagna begins by telling readers and listeners something they probably already know, "A child is a small person." But, "they are only small for a little while, then they grow up." Children are in a hurry to grow up, sometimes they are happy and feel free when they grow up and sometimes they find it hard to be grown-up. Sometimes Alemagna's text seems written for adults, other times, you can be sure that kids will get it. Children have small hands and feet and they want strange things, "to have shiny shoes, to eat lollipops for breakfast and to hear the same story every evening." Alemagna's text swings back and forth, from child to adult, and her book feels almost like it could be called, What Is a Child? What Is an Adult?, which seems fit since kids and adults go together like peanut butter and jelly or tea and biscuits. Alemagna brings her meditation to an end by repeating an early observation, "All children are small people who will change some day. They won't go to school anymore, but to work." She goes on to list things that adults do, finally ending with these wise words, "But why think about that now?"
What Is a Child? is not a book for every kid - or for every parent who has to read out loud to a kid. But, it is definitely a picture book for people who love picture books and appreciate a different perspective. I have no doubt that little listeners who have this book read out loud to them will remember it well into adulthood.
More Beatrice, in English and French
Source: Review Copy