Jonathan posted about potential easy reader contenders for the Newbery; but we have yet to delve into picture books. I’m always on the lookout for picture books with text strong enough to give a 300 page novel a challenge at the table. I think that such a thing is rare, but I’m excited to have found a rarity in Julie Fogliano’s IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE. Her title last year, AND THEN IT’S SPRING (both are illustrated by Erin Stead) was also bandied about as Newbery-discussable. This one seems to me even stronger.
It’s a hard one to talk about without quoting the entire text of the book. The first strengths that jump out are the rhythm and pacing of the short-lined poetic text. The tone is strongly reminiscent of Ruth Krauss, yet with an internal consistency that makes it clearly its own.
But it’s the structure and theme of the text, on top of the music, that makes this narrative “distinguished” to me, more so than AND THEN IT’S SPRING. The double-entendre of what you shouldn’t be looking at, if you’re looking for a whale, is funny and insightful for it’s intended audience, and opens itself up to play and interpretation in a myriad of ways.
The pictures are a huge part of the book’s overall impact, and yet I think the text alone is so strong we can put it at the Newbery table. The difficult discussion will be about the last pages…where the pictures join the words in finishing the story. Do we consider the ending that is if there are no pictures? Or the ending that is with the pictures? They are very different endings, but both of them wonderful. This is one of my October Nominations.