Monday, June 29, 2009

Word nerd*

I'm still not particularly confident about what to look for in a picture-book read-aloud, so I've not got much to say about Kate Banks' Max's Words. Max is the youngest of three brothers; the older two each has a collection: Benjamin is a philatelist and Karl a numismatist (Hey, I've not got much to say about the audiobook, I must blind you with vocabulary!). Neither boy will share even one item from their collections with baby brother Max.

So Max decides that he will start his own collection and he chooses words (philophilist?). He cuts them out and collects them, and soon he discovers that he can organize them into sentences and then into stories. Soon, Benjamin and Karl want to play too.

The picture book incorporates Max's words in the art. As Max starts to put his words together, they emerge from text to art. Each word is writ large on a piece of paper (?) and the papers are arranged into sentences. (It is similar to how the names of the author and illustrator are pictured on the book cover.) The sentences (as art) move dramatically across the pages of the book, no longer confined to the standard straight, horizontal dictates of text. Occasionally, the word includes a clue about its definition (a la concrete poetry). It's a clever demonstration of the power of story.

The short reading is narrated by Andrew Watts. I appreciated that he doesn't read with an exaggeratedly youthful, yet deliberate pace. He performs the dialog between the three brothers very well, giving each one a little bit of vocal character. The bragging and bickering between the three boys sounds brotherly.

I didn't realize that the words take two different forms (text and art) until I listened for the second time (the version with the page turn chimes). And, I wish that Watts had made more of a distinction between the two forms. There is one page -- I think it's Max's first complete sentence with his words -- where the sentence appears in both text and art. Watts reads this. one. word. at. a. time. When I was just listening (before I opened the book), I knew that there was going to be something different about those words in the book. And there was. But, despite the fact that the technique showed up several more times, he never does it again.

Watts also doesn't finish the book! He stopped reading two pages before the end. These two pages are exclusively words as art, but nonetheless, they are words. They should have been part of the audiobook.

*Just a shout out to a fun book I recently read (with my eyes): Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen.

No comments: