Steam Train, Dream Train: Rinker & Lichtenheld
The Lucy Variations: Sara Zarr

I Wish I Had ... : Giovanna Zoboli & Simona Mulazzani

Book: I Wish I Had ... 
Author: Giovannna Zoboli
Illustrator: Simona Mulazzani
Pages: 26
Age Range: 3 to 8 

I Wish I Had ... is a picture book that celebrates the physical attributes and talents of animals. Each page spread features a different animal, with pairs of pages linked together into a single sentence. Like this:

"I wish I had the eyes of a blackbird
to see every blade of grass
growing in the meadow...

... and the feather-light steps
of a tiger as it explores the silence.

There's no particular reason, story-wise, to connect the two page spreads like this, but it does help keep the book from being too repetitive when read aloud (as it might be if one had to say "I wish I had" on every page). 

Giovanna Zoboli uses relatively advanced syntax for some of her comparisons, like the lemur swinging through "the maze of branches" and "the forest of thoughts." She doesn't use complex words, but she does use apt ones that are good for kids to see in context, like "nimble" and "contentment". She avoids the more clichéd comparisons, too. There's a soothing, lyrical quality to the text that I think will make I Wish I Had ... a nice read-aloud. 

Simona Mulazzani's illustrations fill every corner of every page with muted colors and textures. Her animals are largely realistic, except for a series of patterns traced onto the whale and the elephant (vaguely reminiscent of Il Sung Na's illustration style). I actually found those two pages a bit jarring, since the other animals were all colored realistically - it was as though Mulazzani couldn't leave the smooth, gray surfaces of elephant and whale untouched.

Apart from that, though, I liked the illustrations. There are other touches of whimsey, like a series of square windows in a tree, and mice drinking juice out of tiny glasses on the kitchen table. 

I Wish I Had ... is set apart from run of the mill animal attribute books by the creative nature of Zoboli's comparisons and the detail and subtle quirkiness of Mulazzani's pictures. It is well worth a look for storytime or home use. I plan to try it with my daughter this evening. 

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (@eerdmansbooks)
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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