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Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green

Seen and Not Heard is the debut picture book from Katie May Green. On the jacket flap, Green writes that she was inspired to create this book after looking at a 16th century portrait of three children and wondering what it might "feel like to be trapped in a painting for four hundred years?" The answer is a playfully rhyming, marvelously magical, midnight romp with the occasional dash of eeriness.

A black cat and three white mice lead readers on a journey through Silverhawk House, the "big old house" with "creaky stairs." In the nursery we find "children in pictures on the wall - seen and not heard." Each child's name appears on the painting and the text details traits that are anything but spooky. Lily Pinksweet is a "dainty delight." The Plumseys are grown-up and very polite. Billy Fitzbillian is the cleverest boy and Percy is always happy to share a toy. However, the DeVillechild girls are . . .
Well, those DeVillechild girls can be a little bit disconcerting, despite the fact that Green tells us they are "perfect angels." As night falls and the children leave their paintings to play throughout the house, cavorting, galloping, jumping and basically running riot, the twins, Lila and Vila, keep themselves at a cautious distance. 

In fact, it's fun to try to spot the twins (and the three mice) amidst the chaos at times. Green's story is unique and exciting for a picture book, but her illustrations make Seen and Not Heard a truly stellar book. They are delicate and somber when needed, but always embodying a quiet cheerfulness that can be seen in the faces of the children and, once they are out of their paintings, their impish mischievousness. The historical details, from the clothes to the furniture to the food, are fantastic without weighing down the illustrations.

As the sun rises, or, as Lily says, "the moon is getting tired," the children head back to their frames. A pink glow warms the room where they "stay still and sweet and good, just as children should." But, be sure to look closely at the last page - there just might be a bow or two out of place!

I absolutely ADORE Seen and Not Heard! It is a book that I know I will read over and over and I'm sure that your children will want to do the same. In fact, Katie's book was nominated for the Read It Again award in the UK! Over 14,000 children voted on which book they wanted to read again. What a great idea! I think we need that in the States. 

Katie did a special reading of her book in the National Gallery in London where she got to read her book about children in a 16th century painting while surrounded by children and paintings from the 16th century! How cool is that?

Katie's second book, Stone Angel by the multi-award winning Jane Yolen, came out in the US in March of this year. Stone Angel is the story of a girl and her family who must flee their home in Paris when the Nazi soldiers arrive during WWII. While hiding in the forest, encountering resistance fighters and crossing tall mountains, the girl thinks of the stone angel near her home in Paris and imagines it watching over her.

Source: Review Copy


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