PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: I Got It! by David Wiesner/Hello, Hello by Brendan Wenzel


David Wiesner presents a near-wordless account of the most suspenseful, nerve-wracking few seconds in a baseball game.

The few seconds after the ball leaves the bat can be infinitely long. For this eager young outfielder, there's plenty of time to envision the increasingly fantastic and funny situations that might interfere with making the catch. Summoning determination and courage, he overcomes the imaginary obstacles and turns them into a springboard for success.


I'll admit the first time I read this I was reading it to a class of first graders.  I didn't have time to read and ponder it the way I should a Wiesner book.  So when a tree root and then a tree popped up in the baseball field, I wasn't quite prepared.  And then an enormous baseball appeared, and then the boy playing ball was tiny and his teammates were huge.  I had to ad lib to explain to the students why these strange things were appearing in what at first seemed to be a straightforward story of a boy playing in a pickup baseball game.  Afterward, as I thought about it though I wasn't too surprised.  This is a David Wiesner book after all.  And Wiesner is known for creating books that look at the world in a different, even fantastical way.  At first I was thinking the book was all about symbolism.  The symbolism revolving around excuses for clumsiness (the tree), the size a ball seems when it's coming straight at you (huge), and how it feels to mess up and have your teammates rush in to cover for you (you feel very small).  And while I still see that symbolism in the book, I now see that the book is about a young boy who is afraid of messing up and starts to imagine all the different (sometimes funny) ways that he could mess up catching the ball.   Luckily, by the time he finally gets the chance to catch the ball, he pulls himself together.  Once again, Wiesner has created an unusual, imaginative tale with gorgeous illustrations.  I enjoy using his books because there are many different ways to interpret them.  And this book is no different.  Next time I use the book, I'll be better prepared to ask students about how they interpret Wiesner's unusual additions.


This gorgeous follow-up to the Caldecott Honor–winning They All Saw a Cat explores another aspect of seeing the world for young children. Beginning with two cats, one black and one white, a chain of animals appears before the reader, linked together by at least one common trait. From simple colors and shapes to more complex and abstract associations, each unexpected encounter celebrates the magnificent diversity of our world—and ultimately paints a story of connection. Brendan Wenzel's joyous, rhythmic text and exuberant art encourage readers to delight in nature's infinite differences and to look for—and marvel at—its gorgeous similarities. It all starts with a simple "Hello."


Wenzel has created an beautiful book about animals with a rather unusual premise.  The book starts by introducing animals that are black and white, basic colors, then moves to more colorful animals.  He continues by introducing animals that have stripes and spots, then animals of different sizes, then animals with unusual tongues, ears, hands and noses.  It's a brilliant strategy starting with the simple (black and white cats) to the more complex.  What makes it even more brilliant is the way he matches animals who are different but who have one major thing in common, such as a whale shark, and a spotted chameleon, a proboscis monkey and an elephant seal, a porcupine and an echidna.  The last animal from the previous page greets (Hello) the new set of animals making for a continuous line of animals.  Thankfully Wenzel includes a list of all the animals in the back of the book.  This is a good thing because I didn't know all the animals and neither will child readers.  When I read the book to a class of second graders they had a blast trying to guess the ones they didn't know though.  It also turns out that Wenzel has highlighted animals that are threatened or endangered, and in the author's note at the end of the book encourages young readers to find out more about these animals and support those who are trying to save them.  The book is a beautiful combination of brilliant illustrations, connections, and introduction to a fascinating and important topic.


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