My youngest daughter just got given a copy of Neil Gaiman’s new picture book, Chu’s Day, for her birthday. I loved it so much, that I had to write about it immediately.
Neil Gaiman is no stranger to books in which text and graphics combine to tell a story. After all, he made his name writing comics and graphic novels such a Sandman and Books of Magic. And he’s gone on to write illustrated children’s books such as The Dangerous Alphabet (illustrated by Gris Grimly) and the wonderful The Wolves in the Walls (illustrated by Dave McKean). But I think this must be his first book for much younger kids (please shout me down and correct me in the comments section, if I’m wrong about this).
Chu’s Day is a story about a little panda with a big sneeze. And it is a charming book. It is cute; it is clever; it is simple; and is utterly delightful.
Gaimen’s text is superb with its play on words and sounds. Chu’s Day sounds like Tuesday, but also alludes to the sound of a sneeze — Aaaachooooooooo! But just as Gaiman knows well how to use words, he also knows how to not use them. So many picture books are overly wordy, with the text and pictures telling the reader exactly the same thing. Not so with this book. Gaiman holds back, allowing the pictures to add to the story — to show the reader things that are not said. Nowhere does the text actually describe the outcome of Chu’s big sneeze — that is all done with the illustrations. This allows preschoolers to discover important elements of the story for themselves (without having to have all the revelations read to them).
And the illustrations by Adam Rex are BEAUTIFUL! There is so much to look at on every page. The detail, particularly in the library and the circus, is glorious. You could ignore the words and just stare at these pictures for ages.
I’m being very effusive about this book, but it is everything a good young children’s picture book should be — engaging text; gorgeous illustrations; and a touch of wit to keep the parents amused.
Catch ya later, George
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