What I'm Reading: A Remarkable Picture Book

We managed to take a trip to the library this past week after several months -- maybe a year -- of not frequenting our favorite place. We certainly missed it. Of course, we've been to used book stores and Books-a-Million, opting to buy books instead of worrying about racking up return fees or destroying something that's not ours. Still, there's something special about the public library that you don't get in a bookstore. Maybe it's the plethora of books. There are just so many. Rows and rows. Just go down an aisle and be amazed.

Since I spend so much time with children's books, I've come to enjoy reading them for my own pleasure. This trip I picked up an unusual-looking book titled Ballad by illustrator Blexbolex and translated from the original French by Claudia Z. Bedrick.

The library shelves are so full of books, there is little that differentiates one from another when you're looking for nothing in particular. Ballad stood out. It is short and thick for a children's book. The hardback cover is textured, and the illustrations were so interesting I had to take a look inside. It has the feel of an old classic but isn't worn. The feel and color of the pages reminded me of such P.D. Eastman readers as Go, Dog Go and The Best Nest. And as soon as I opened Ballad I was intrigued.

This book was everything I love about illustrated children's fiction. The illustrations were essential to the story. They were the story. The words were scarce -- similar to another favorite of mine, Silent Movie -- and due to the imaginative script, were actually part of the lovely pictures. The story is fantasy, a kind of fairytale with magic and thieves and an extraordinary rescue -- everything a picture book story should be.

My son read this book, after I beamed over it, in maybe fifteen minutes. There are so few words that one could, feasibly, read it all in that short time. I, personally, chose to read it slowly, taking a couple hours to not only read the words but the prints too. Chris didn't understand the story upon finishing, unsurprisingly. Take it slow. It's worth it.