Review: Draw! by Raúl Colón
By Raúl Colón
Simon & Schuster
Bullish times for wordless picture books, eh? Whereas in the past it seemed there were illustrators who focused specifically on books without words (Barbara Lehman comes to mind), now more than ever it seems like a technique that artists of all stripes are willing to try. Take a look at last year’s Caldecott Honor crop as proof. It continues this year, with a number of notable releases without a word to share between them. Draw! is one such book. Through stunning images, illustrator Raúl Colón gives us a glimpse into his mind as a child.
In his bedroom, Raúl is reading a book about Africa when his mind begins to take flight. Putting pencil to sketchpad, the boy fully enters his imagination. Easel in hand, he comes upon an elephant and sets to work, capturing the gigantic beast on paper. The elephant is pleased and takes Raúl on a tour of the plain, where the pair encounter a host of safari animals: calm zebras, stampeding giraffes, a curious ape, and an angry rhino. He draws each one (and manages to avoid getting mauled) before bidding his pachyderm friend adieu. We return to the real world. Raúl is back in his bedroom, floor littered with drawings of what he has seen. The next day at school, he shares his work.
Colón uses pen and ink, watercolors, and Prismacolor pencils to create the bold, often dramatic illustrations. The artwork carries the loose story, switching styles to signify the change between the real and imagined worlds. Two page spreads are used to cinematic effect, and comic-style panels are employed to convey the imposing fear of a charging rhinoceros. The earthy palette ties it all together beautifully.
To fully embrace this book you have to take it for what it is – an adventure into the imagination. One event flows nicely into the next as young Raúl explores, although I couldn’t help but but wish there was a bit more of a narrative arc that could grab readers as much as the illustrations do.
An artist recalls his childhood and no words are needed. Draw! is a pleasure to look at. Plenty of daydreaming kids will be ready to take this trip.
Review copy purchased.
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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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