Review: What If? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Six words. While the overall count is higher, Laura Vaccaro Seeger (First the Egg) uses only six individual words to create What If? How much can you do with six words? Apparently, plenty. A deceptively simple story that will provoke more thoughtful examination of friendship than you might expect.
The story begins when a boy kicks his mulitcolored beach ball into the surf. Two seals (one brown, the other gray) play with the ball until they accidentally knock it back onto the beach, where a third seal (this one pink) enters the story. How should they handle the newcomer? In the subsequent pages, three scenarios are played out, with the questioning text (what if…?) inviting youngsters to find the best solution.
The absence of dialog means that readers fill in the gaps. How exactly are the characters interacting? There is cause and effect to consider. There are inferences to be made. While there is text present to subtly guide the story, What If? is wordless at heart.
Given the limited text, the artwork takes on added importance. On top of sunny, impressionistic backgrounds, the layout and expressions of the characters allow readers to follow the story without much trouble.
Now, if I may, I have six words of my own I’d like share:
What If? is a subtle winner.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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