Here’s what they don’t tell you in library school: You can try and learn to be a children’s librarian all you want but there’s one skill that is essential to your day-to-day needs and is innate. It cannot be learned. In a word: Craftiness. Not "craftiness" as in "skillful in underhand or evil schemes" (more’s the pity). No, I mean "craftiness" as in how good you are at entertaining a room full of screaming tots using only wooden tongue depressors, googly eyes, and a handful of glitter. Craft programs are, for librarians like myself, sometimes almost painfully difficult. That’s why it’s often a blessing to find a book that will tie into such a program. Often this takes some creative thinking. I just read The Wide-Mouthed Frog so today we’re all making froggy visors, etc. Maybe that’s what’s so great about It’s Picture Day Today! by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. Not only is it a story that, like the characters in it, comes together with panache but afterwards there’s not a librarian alive who won’t pluck at least a little inspiration from its fine and fiery pages. From yarn to coils to wheels to sequins, bouncy text and upbeat imagery explode in a fun new picture book creation.
As with many stories for young children, it all begins with buttons. School doors open and a crowd of buttons sweep in. Naturally they are followed by the feathers, which in turn are leading the string, rings, and springs. A veritable cacophony of objects flutter, bounce, and jounce on by. The teacher takes roll, and everyone seems to be accounted for with one notable exception. Perhaps the most important object of all: Glue! In bounces glue and everyone jostles for its attention. When all is said and done, the teacher says brightly, "Don’t forget . . . Say cheese!" And the room full of strange but benign objects grin now that they’ve formed themselves into various shapes and postures. Sometimes it just takes a little glue to pull yourself together.
Word on the street has it that Ms. McDonald came up with the idea for this book while playing around with various craft supplies with her niece. There’s a joy that comes when disparate objects turn themselves into recognizable shapes and objects. There isn’t much text to this book, of course, but that’s out of necessity. Too much talking and everything falls to shreds.
The human brain is designed to see faces everywhere. It’s how we’re wired. We can’t help it. We want to see faces everywhere that we look, and we do. Of course, it helps when the illustrator gives us a leg up. Ms. Tillotson’s vast craft-related experience is on full-display here, no question. Though the book is entirely done in cut paper, you’ll probably find yourself forgetting that fact more than once. You’ll end up thinking the tongue depressors really were made out of wood, the ribbons are really ribbon, and the pompoms something other than just artfully torn paper fibers. There’s also a real sense of energy to these pages. These objects aren’t just vying for our attention. They’re jostling one another to the side in order to take center stage. If you have a kid who makes even their crayons and scissors talk to one another, odds are they will instantly understand this book. If I’ve any objections maybe I’m sad that we don’t get to see the class picture at the end. It would have been cool to see the teacher take the picture, and then see the final image at the end (maybe on an endpaper or bookflap) as a Polaroid. Ah well. One can’t have everything.
To sum up, this is a book for tying in a title to a craft-related storytime on the one hand, and for those kids who see playfellows in even the dust bunnies under their beds. It’s peppy and fun title all around. A book for multiple needs with a bit of pep and kick to it. Good stuff.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher.
- Get a quickie look behind the making of the book from Ms. McDonald.
- Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast did a killer profile of illustrator Katherine Tillotson a couple months ago, complete with interior shots of this book.
- It’s Picture Day Today is an Honore winner of the 2009 National Parenting Publications Award.