Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lost for words by Natalie Russell

I generally don't like picture books about the storytelling process. It just feels...self-indulgent to me. So when I first saw the description of this, I was like "nah." But...then I realized it was a tapir. There are not enough tapir books! Come to think of it...are there any tapir picture books? Hmmm...also, it's Natalie Russell, and I really adored her pictures in Moon Rabbit, even though I didn't end up buying it for the library....and while I generally look at Peachtree for nonfiction picture books, not fiction, when they do hit a good one, they really hit it...

So I borrowed it and read it and I am IN LOVE.

Tapir has pencils and a notebook, but he doesn't know what to write. All his friends are good at writing; Giraffe can write poems, Hippo can write exciting stories, Flamingo can write songs...but Tapir's got nothin'. He tries behaving like his friends, but it's no good. Finally, Tapir finds his own quiet place and his own special talent and realizes that his pictures can say everything that he doesn't have the words to write.

This book gently introduces children a large number of writing concepts; stories should have a beginning and an ending, songs are composed, the simple rhyming flow of a poem. While the text is a little long for younger storytimes, it would be easy to adapt it and leave out the animals' writing.

Most attractive, of course, are the softly glowing illustrations. Tapir's friends and his world glow with sturdy, vibrant colors and when Tapir finally begins his drawings they are a perfect blend of rough pencil sketches that could have been done by a child and skilled artistry.

Verdict: A simple but beautiful story. This won't have your storytime group racing around with delight, but everyone will have a satisfied sigh when Tapir resolves his problem and produces his lovely pictures, showing his friends just how much they mean to him. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781561457397; Published 2013 by Peachtree; Purchased for the library

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