Sunday, May 15, 2011
Mirror, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2010. $21.00 ages 5 and up
"One family lives in a city in Australia, and one lives in Morocco, North Africa. The lives of the two boys and their families look very different from each other, and they are different. But some things connect them....just as some things are the same for all families no matter where they live."
It comes as no surprise to me that Jeannie Baker has created another amazing and relevant story. In her newest book, she proves that her imagination and artistic acuity know no bounds! She chooses to tell the stories of two families, inviting us into their homes and lives.
One of the families lives in Sidney where the author makes her home. The Australian boy graces the front cover, looking at the moon shine over his beautiful urban environment. We watch as, during the night, he climbs into bed with his parents. Morning introduces us to the baby in the family, dressed in a yellow sleeper and eager to begin a new day. Moving into their story, we see the family going about its morning routines: feeding the baby and the cat, putting on the tea kettle, showering, making a list of items needed to complete a fireplace project. Father and son are off to town to get needed supplies. As they leave the hardware store the son suggests a stop at a carpet store. With the fireplace completed, supper is ordered and a surprise gift is presented. The final illustration shows the family sitting on the beauteous 'magic' carpet admiring their young son's artwork depicting a family-laden carpet flying over the Moroccan landscape.
That part of the story happens on the left side of the book, with the reader opening pages from right to left. On the mirror side of the book, we open the pages from left to right, and the writing is in Arabic. Before sunrise we see the mother in prayer, and then working diligently on a colorful carpet. Turning the page, the family gathers for the first meal of the day and then sends the father and young son to market, with the completed carpet in hand. They travel by donkey through lightening skies, over narrow roads and past farmlands on their way to a larger center. They have selling and buying on their agenda. When their work is done, they take the long and tiresome trek home. There, the reception is warm and welcome. Supper is prepared, the family comes together in front of the computer, a coveted purchase. The final illustration shows the family, on the bare floor, logging in to see what the rest of the world has to offer. Closing the book offers a glimpse of a young Moroccan boy looking at the same moon as his Australian counterpart.
The English introduction to the story is mirrored by Moroccan text on the right side. The stories are meant to be read together, going back from page to page and allowing readers to make the discovery that while people of the world may have differences, they also have much in common.
I could have written this entire post about the glorious, spectacular, brilliant and splendiferous artwork that Jeannie Baker has created for this nearly wordless book. Each turn of the page offers an invitation to explore the worlds she presents. I have pored over these wondrous pages a number of times, each time making new discoveries and upping my admiration for this incredible artist.
I love the addition of the the photos showing Ms. Baker at her work, and offering these words:
"The pictures started as drawings. Using these drawings as a guide, collages were made. The collages were constructed layer by layer on a wooden baseboard using a combination of natural and artificial materials such as sand, earth, clay, paints, vegetation, paper, fabric, wool, tin, and plastic. The natural materials were preserved and fresh coloring added. The completed collages were then photographed to be reproduced as you see here."