Review: Why the Face? by Jean Jullien
Why the Face?
by Jean Jullien
Board books don’t lend themselves to reviews, do they? Most fall into two camps: either simplistic to the point of abstraction (this isn’t a knock – just stating facts) or a more sturdy version of a preexisting picture book. There is, however, a third group – one that takes the board book form and tweaks it, while staying true to the audience. Why the Face? by Jean Jullien is in that group. It is also clearly one of the best board books of the year.
Why the Face? is ostensibly about emotions. Each spread introduces a child wearing a different expression – from satisfied smile to wide-eyed grimace – with giant verso text repeating the question: “WHY THE FACE?”. The recto gatefold reveals the cause of each reaction:
It hits a bunch of the important board book conventions – simple, repetitive, child-centric – but the real fun is in how it uses the element of surprise to gently subvert expectations. For example, we discover a girl plugging her ears is in response to a loud rock band:
Or a boy with his eyes closed is reveled to be sleeping. And, my favorite, we find out a boy with a silly face is just trying to cheer up a baby:
It’s the rare board book that little ones will love and grown-ups will love reading. A true feat.
Review copy from the publisher.
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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