Book: A Few Blocks
Age Range: 4-8
Cybele Young's A Few Blocks is a relatively small picture book with unique illustrations. It's about the imaginary games that a brother and sister, Ferdie and Viola, play as they walk a few blocks to school. The text is pretty minimal, mostly featuring Ferdie refusing to go to school, and Viola cajoling him, like this (over several pages):
"Ferdie found a perfect rock and sat down.
"That's it. I'm not going. Not now," he said. "Maybe never."
He watched as some ants on the ground ate a gumdrop.
Viola pointed to a leaf in the gutter and said, "The ship's leaving! We'd better hop on and go find the buried treasure!""
And then the two hop into an adventure!
The illustrations of Ferdie and Viola's real life are tiny, delicate, black and white pen and ink sketches against a white background. A window, a chair, a fire hydrant. Viola putting on her coat. Mundane, realistic things. But each time the children are about to launch into an imaginary adventure, a hint of color leads the way. Like this:
"Ferdie, look! I found your superfast cape! Quick -- put on your rocket-blaster books and we'll take off!"
The cape and boots are blue. And on the next page, Ferdie and Viola launch into the air, above a colorful, futuristic cityscape. The fantasy sequences are based on 3-D paper sculptures, created from paintings. They have visible shadows behind them, making it clear that they are 3D. These sequences are rendered in soft colors, using a different color scheme for each image.
These images remind me of childhood times that I spent playing with a mix of paper dolls and figurines. There are looping paper walkways and bridges. Some of the pages feature layers of cutouts from different paintings, interlaced, with colors used to tell them apart. They are unusual and intriguing. I think that they'll inspire kids to want to draw and paint and cut out their own cityscapes and fantasy worlds.
There's not much of a story to A Few Blocks. The kids segue from future city to pirate ship to medieval castle, and back again. And at the end, it's Ferdie who uses his imagination to coax his older sister to take those last few steps towards school. But what makes A Few Blocks stand out are the intricate, glowing, imagination-stretching illustrations. If you know a child who likes visiting imaginary worlds, and/or a child who enjoys creating artwork, A Few Blocks would make a lovely gift. Recommended for 4-8 year olds (more for individual reading than for group read-aloud, I think, given the detail of the illustrations).
Publisher: Groundwood Books (@GroundwoodBooks)
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Mia Wenjen
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).