What Are Your Secret Ingredients?
I was listening to All Songs Considered the other day when the concept of “secret ingredients” came up. The hosts were discussing sonic elements that, if they appear in a song, make them much more likely to enjoy that song.
I got me to thinking – when it comes to books, what are my “secret ingredients”?
In the past, I’ve joked that Dewey’s Christmas in the Library is the “Librarian Perfect Storm”. Christmas, a cat named after Melville Dewey, a library setting – this is librarian bait of the first order, folks.
Although cats and library settings aren’t necessarily my thing, there are certainly elements that I always seem to gravitate toward. Here they are.
(From Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek)
Every time an illustrator forgoes the type and does it themselves, I love it. I like the imperfection of it, and the way it makes the whole operation seem more personal.
I am a sucker for books that in some way comment on the book itself. We Are In a Book, where Elephant and Piggie realize they’re being read, is the perfect example of this. The S.O.S. Files is meta, but in a much different way. Heck, even Diary of a Wimpy Kid has a touch of meta. I’m always up for it.
I have a soft spot for books without words. The ability of an artist to tell a story solely through illustrations never ceases to amaze me. Flotsam, Wonder Bear, Chalk, The Lion & The Mouse – I’m a fan of them all.
If I’m reading a graphic novel that does something especially creative with the panels, I don’t forget it.
This is kind of a general one, but definitely one of my secret ingredients. For me, funny trumps sad any day.
I got endless pleasure out of subtly off kilter books like People by Blexbolex, mostly due to the unusual illustration pairings. When a book can successfully pull off odd, count me in.
Print Illustration Techniques
(From Baby Bear Sees Blue)
This technique seems to always catch my eye. Be it woodblock, linoleum block, relief, or other print techniques I don’t even know about yet, I’m happy with the handmade feel they bring to the table.
So the question is, what are your secret ingredients?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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