WHY PICTURE BOOKS MATTER (part one): Picture Books and Their Makers: Caroline Magerl

Picture books offer a unique window into the world; into life and all its' shades and nuances. The first books we hold that create that desire to read, they call upon us to decipher those little squiggles and scratches we call words and know the story they are trying to tell us. They are our first glimpse into literature and art, with a rich and varied history of their own. But in the infinite variety of picture books we see, they do far more than that. Regardless of our age (erroneously, picture books are frequently seen as the realm of the very young), picture books ask us to look deeper at the world and at ourselves and truly understand.

Some thoughts on the Quiet Picture Books of Caroline Magerl:

Caroline Magerl first came to my attention as a picture book artist last year with Maya and Cat. This is a peaceful, cosy kind of adventure; a story of being lost and belonging.  It is the story of two friends' determination to do the right thing for each other. The illustrations are echoed in the words, such that, like all good picture books, it can been 'read' even if you don't have the words. Their atmospheric, emotive quality carry the reader along on a journey with plenty of subtle, thoughtful action. And it is a wonder of a book!
So, I was endlessly delighted when I received a review copy of Nop. Nop is simply exquisite...in every way. It is the perfect kind of 'quiet picture book', with an economy of language that captures the mood and draws us into the story until we have left our surrounding 'real world' somewhere else. We are there, in Oddmints Dumporeum with a small, patchy bear with no buttons or ribbons or sparkly bits, dreaming of....something more; a place to be, a place to belong and a friend that has been looking for you all along. In reading this book, I felt that the language used in its' telling took its' cue from the poetic, evocative illustrations, as if the drawing of the pictures created the words.
"...In a place soft with dust, he sat and watched the crumbhawks tumble..."; "...A crinkly paper bag for each, with someplace wonderful to go..."; "...Nop was soon a speck in the great march of clouds..." These are not words to be shouted. They are meant to be pondered with the voice, suggesting a great deal of action and drama, but action and drama that would be missed if spoken too loudly. These are words that seeped out of the pictures and came into being because of them...or at the very least, alongside of them. And hand in hand, the words and illustrations create something urgent in the heart and mind of the reader. Not just a feeling or a sense of the space and time. They create a memory; one that will last until the child experiencing this book is no longer a child.
This is what quiet picture books do. They create memories, impressions and a sense of something more that sticks with the reader for a long time. The reason for this, I believe, is that they open up a different space within; a place that sustains us and nurtures us, if we let it. It's easy to allow this if you are a child, but once you have escaped into the grownup world...not so much. But the memory of a cherished picture book from childhood (and I have found they are almost always the 'quiet' books that stick in the memory, keeps that space open and invites that childlike wonder and sense of possibility from disappearing into the busy, noisy world. It is a skill that we should offer our children, one that they should grow with. It will serve them well.
I was taken by a post on social media by Caroline Magerl, "in veneration of quiet books". I think she hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to the importance...no, the urgency of quiet books. With her permission, I am quoting it here.

"Quiet books will join you in the mid-distance, after denying you all the information that you need. You are forced to slow down and experience a space where you must reach for something. That something, that moment, when you have loaned yourself to the story is immensely rewarding. It is your own interpretation, and perhaps even your own part in the story.
Energy goes where it is directed and a quiet book makes you reflect back on yourself."

That leaves me with not much more to say, so I will leave that with you for you to consider.
The full reviews for both Maya and Cat and Nop can be found on the Picture Books! page of this blog. Thank you to Walker Books for the review copies of each, and to Caroline Magerl for her wise words, beautiful artwork and her stunning picture books.
For more information on Walker Books or Caroline Magerl, here are the links:

http://www.walker.co.uk/
http://www.carolinemagerl.com/

Comments

  1. Beautiful words. I'm now hooked on your blog. But you block email subscriptions. Is this accidental?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for this. I was completely unaware it was happening. It shouldn’t be. I will check it out

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