What I'm Reading: A Picture Book

I LOVE picture books. I've probably told you that before, but it's worth saying repeatedly I think. They can't just be for children. That wouldn't be fair.

The artwork of Peter H. Reynolds in the dot caught my eye. What kind of book could be about a dot? I remember thinking to myself.

At my last meander through the bookstore I must've spent an hour or two in the children's section alone. I love that you can read the whole book in a few minutes. There is something special about being able to make a worthwhile story in such a short space.

The artwork of Peter H. Reynolds in the dot caught my eye. What kind of book could be about a dot? I remember thinking to myself.

A lot of children's books are thinly veiled parables, and it's not unusual for the values taught to be different from the ones I hold and wish to impart to my children -- belief in yourself, for instance, is not something that I make a point to understand or teach1. When looking for a new picture book to read, then, I am primarily in search of a good story.

This particular book happened to be both.

When looking for a new picture book to read, then, I am primarily in search of a good story, not a lesson.

The Dot is a simple story with simple, though expressive illustrations. The size of an infant's board book, the author provides just enough in word and paintings to spark a mixture of memory and imagination in the reader. As soon as I closed the book I wanted to take it home to share with my children. I wanted to get out a pen and draw. I thought more of the doodles I fiddle with and toss away.

This is a book review, and I would say any book recommendation falls short in at least one way. I am trying to explain something that isn't entirely explainable. I want to tell you that I like this book, and I think you should go read it -- you'll probably like it too. More than that, reading this book has added something valuable to my life -- something I can't exactly put my finger on.

Pleasure, is the word, I guess. That's what art is.

Sometimes people wonder aloud about how artwork that is so simple, lacking in any complexity, can be considered as valuable as it is. "I could've done that!" they say. There's this expectation that real art be hard to produce or copy, hard to come up with, hard to even respond to or understand in any deep way. A poem that is easily grasped by any native speaker should be of less value than one that requires extensive study. Not so, shouts Reynolds in and with the dot, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Pleasure, is the word, I guess. That's what art is.


The homeschool connection

We have art curriculum, but it is rare that we manage to get to it. The kids draw and color often enough, and the sculptures they come up with with their LEGO bricks are so remarkable. Still, I do regret not having the time to really dive into art with paints and clay and oil pastels. I don't know why I consider it a shortcoming, but I do.

Today, I picked up my watercolors my husband bought me for a birthday a year or more ago. As I played around with a doodle I'd created yesterday, the kids one by one decided to get out their own, hardly-used, watercolors and brushes. They made one piece after another -- so proud of each one.

Everything's like that. They eat more vegetables when I do. There play outside more when I do. They clean up more when I do. They value everything I value.

As I played around with a doodle I'd created yesterday, the kids one by one decided to get out their own, hardly-used, watercolors and brushes.

  1. It's a separate thing deserving a separate post, but I can't help explaining a little. To my literal mind the phrase believe in yourself is problematic primarily because it doesn't make sense. If you mean believe that you exist, well, obviously you exist. If you mean you should believe you can do things that you think you can't do, that's just as silly -- unless you can do everything. If you mean believe that you can do things that you can do, there are probably better ways to express that than saying "believe in yourself."