Review: The Jacket by Kirsten Hall
By Kirsten Hall
Illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Enchanted Lion Books
Out October 28, 2014
One of the wonderful things about picture books is that every turn of the page brings suspense – what will be on the other side? As picture book author Mac Barnett said in a recent interview on Number Five Bus Presents, “[T]he picture book is beautifully suited to surprise”. The Jacket takes the final reveal and does something unique – moves it into the three-dimensional world. But all of it wouldn’t be worth mentioning if the story wasn’t strong enough to make the whole thing float. It is and it does.
Book was a good book. Strong. Playful. There was just one problem: he was lonely. Day after day he waited in the store, hoping a child would choose him. One day – it happens. A girl takes him home and loves him. Book is happy. But there’s a problem. The girl also loves her dog, Egg Cream. One peaceful day Egg Cream gets ahold of Book, resulting in a muddy disaster. What is the girl to do to stop this sort of thing from happening in the future? She decides to make something for Book: a jacket of his very own.
Yep, The Jacket is meta. Self aware. The book itself is a part of the story. The jacket that the girl makes at the end of the book is identical to the jacket of the physical book.
This fact makes for a fun read aloud. During story time this past week I would start with the plain blue book and keep the jacket hidden, pulling it out for a “big reveal” at the end. It never failed to delight students and served as a perfect lead-in for discussing book care.
But The Jacket is much more than just a clever gimmick. There are big themes aplenty here: love, friendship, fear. All are handled with subtlety, making for a story with emotional depth.
How will this book work in libraries, where the jacket of The Jacket will be covered with a mylar jacket (Most Confusing Sentence of the Year)? I don’t really have an answer for that. When the jacket is covered and taped down, the story will still work, but not quite as well as if the reader could still remove it. Outside of a library setting, obviously, this isn’t an issue.
The illustrations are loose and scribbly colored pencil and watercolor. They strike a nice balance between child-like and sophisticated. The color palette similarly strikes a balance between Ticonderoga No. 2 grey and more boldly vibrant hues.
A story of love and friendship – despite imperfect – told from a unique perspective, The Jacket will please a crowd while delving into deeper themes. A book to love.
Review copy from the publisher
Watch the book trailer for The Jacket:
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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 email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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