Background: I had Bill Thomson's Chalk on my shelf, but hadn't gotten to it yet. Two things raised it up in my queue. First, I saw a tweet from Donalyn Miller in which she mentioned taking this book to the paint store, so that she and her husband could match a paint to the color of the cover. The spine was peeking out at me, and I thought "It is a gorgeous color". Then Chalk was short-listed for the Cybils in Fiction Picture Books, out of some ridiculously large list of nominated titles. And at that point I took it down from the shelf to read it. I'm glad I did!
Review: Chalk is one of the most gorgeous picture books I've ever seen. The illustrations look like they must be computer-generated, perhaps with the use of photos. However, a note at the end of the book explains that Bill Thomson "meticulously painted each illustration by hand, using acrylic paint and colored pencils." They are works of art, three-dimensional, with interesting perspectives and insets, and gorgeous colors. The wordless story is fun, too.
One rainy day, three children find a bag of chalks at a playground. To their astonishment, the things that they draw become real. This occasions much joy, until the lone boy of the trio is unable to resist drawing a dinosaur. Danger follows! The story reminds me a bit of Jumanji and a bit of Mary Poppins, but with a more modern feel.
One nice thing about Chalk is that the three kids are of different races. Because it's a wordless book, no particular attention is drawn to this. But I think it's good that a relatively broad range of kids will be able to see themselves reflected in the book.
Still, it's the illustrations that really stood out for me. The ecstasy of the two girls when the butterflies that they draw come to life. The incredibly detailed, downright menacing raindrops on one page late in the book (yes, raindrops can, in fact, be menacing. Learn something every day!). The range of colors and viewing angles. All I can say is that Chalk is well worth a look. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Publication Date: March 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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