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Monday, August 5, 2013

When No One is Watching, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by David A Johnson. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2013. $18.50 ages 5 and up

"Together Loretta and I
are cozy and comfy.
We're no longer shy.

We splash in the summer
and read in the fall.
Together we don't care
who's watching at all."

Luckily, today we know more about those children in our classrooms, friends in our offices and schools, and lifelong friends who have always been quiet, seemingly shy. We recognize that they are who they are; hopefully, we have stopped trying to make them more gregarious, more outgoing, more 'normal'....whatever that is!

I think I have mentioned before that I tend to look at books as mirrors and windows. To see yourself in a book is a very important part of learning and being literate. Perhaps it even helps you deal with some of the feelings you are sure no one else has. What do you do when no one is watching?

Our narrator lets us know what she does:

"I dance.
I leap and I spin and I prance
'round the room.
I twirl with my pillow
and whirl with the broom.
When no one is watching,
I dance.

For her there is often a 'but'. When the family is visiting, or her school friends are nearby, or they are playing basketball, or she is waiting in a veterinarian's office, she fades into the background and does all she can do to make herself inconspicuous. It's just who she is.

Her friend Loretta offers a calmer kind of quiet, while sharing adventure and being with each other. Together, they are comfortable.

The contrast in text is appealing, allowing the child to be imaginative and adventurous when she is alone, quiet and introspective when she is not. It works really well, and gives readers a clear look at the way she is feeling. The illustrations are digitally manipulated using ink and watercolor and show an exuberant, smiling, wild-haired, adventurous young girl on alternating spreads. In between, we watch as she retires to the sidelines...behind a chair, leaning on a wall, sitting with eyes closed and cat-protected while waiting for her turn with the vet.  I love how David Johnson has her always visible;  but constantly in motion when 'no one is watching'.

Then, there's Loretta...they seem a perfect match!

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