Book Review – Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet

Title: Mix It Up
Author: Hervé Tullet
Illustrator:  Hervé Tullet
Translator: Christopher Franceschelli
Format: Hardcover
Written: 2014
Published: 2014

After a child has learned to identify colors, where do you go next? Making colors! If your goal is to teach the very young about how secondary colors are made, and how to use their imagination to interact with the printed page, you cannot skip this book! Vibrant colors and hands-on prompts not only bring young readers right into the action, the text subtly cues them to imagine what might come next and then to act it out using the very book in their hands. Large splotches of paint merge together when the book is closed, or shaken, or a finger is rubbed across it. This makes for a uniquely immersive experience among literature for very young children. It’s a self-aware book that breaks the fourth wall and asks readers to manipulate and touch it. However, the effects of those touches and manipulations aren’t real, like many board books; they are illustrated. That means readers are jumping back and forth between real and imaginary. As the text guides them through it, they begin to conceptualize.

I read this to a two-and-a-half-year-old and watched as her confusion became conceptualization before my eyes. There is definitely real educational and developmental value in this book. When I picked it up, I thought it would help teach my daughter that yellow and blue make green, and it has, by giving an example of conceptual foundations for imagination. Yellow isn’t a real and tactile thing that she can easily mix with blue in her everyday experiences. Color is always represented by something, even if it is paint. (Or, in this case, illustrations of paint) The poetically graphic method this piece of children’s literature utilizes to convey its information about color theory is very complementary to the process of learning about color theory. It’s elegant, and I admire it. I would recommend this to parents, caretakers, and art teachers everywhere. 5/5

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Book Review – Such Small Hands

TITLE: Such Small Hands
AUTHOR: Andres Barba
TRANSLATED: Lisa Dillman
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2017 (Original Spanish Version – 2008)

 

At the very beginning of this story, there’s a car accident involving seven year old Marina and her parents.  Her father died immediately, her mother later at the hospital, as they tell you several times in the book.  She’s sent to live in an orphanage with a random group of possessions and a doll whose eyes quit opening and closing like they should.

The other girls in the orphanage are unsure of how to act around her, and what ensues from that is a weird dance of small children who want to know each other and yet can’t bring themselves to say what they mean (or perhaps lack the ability to do so).

 

There’s something about Spanish fiction.  It’s like this beautiful string of poetry that dances in on a gentle breeze, twirls around you a few times, and then leaves you breathless.  Unlike American fiction, there’s no fucking blue chair to understand (ie, no heavy descriptions to bog you down), you get a strand of blonde hair here or a white scar there, never before you need to know about them, and never again after their usefulness is done.  Because it’s not about the overly described thing in the corner that doesn’t even matter, it’s about the moment and about you being a part of it.

The skin around the scar contracted in a fleeting spasm and the girl opened her mouth as if she wanted to devour everything: the air, Marina’s arrogance, her own fear.

This book is in three parts.  Part one is the accident and getting Marina to the orphanage, all Marina’s point of view.  Two and three switch between the other girls, who are seen as a descriptioneless collective.  Parts of a whole that we never talk about individually because they aren’t ‘the other girls’ if we do.  In fact, their names are mentioned individually and then as one collective long name with no spaces.  To Marina they are one, so to us they will be too.  Part 2 is about Marina and the other girls seeing each other and keeping their distance.  Part 3 is about the contact between them.

I want to talk more about part 3.  About how something so sad and so helpless can be made so beautiful.  But I also don’t want to give away what happens.

The book was terribly sad, but in a beautiful wrapper in such a way that I hungered for more.  I felt like the girls, who just wanted to reach out a finger but were afraid of interrupting the magic if they did.  I wanted to know more about so many things, but I knew as soon as I did, it would have the subtlety of a pencil to the butt and that wasn’t at all what I wanted.

It’s only a novella, or maybe even a novelette (My very basic word count estimate is 20k, so novella, but it’s definitely not an accuracy level I’d swear by) which actually enhances the story.  This could be a novel, but you wouldn’t want it to be… it needs to be the single movement and not the whole symphonic performance for the night.  So I give it a very high 4/5 – read the book, somewhere quiet with no distractions, and let it be your own music.  But I don’t think you’ll need to read it more than once, because I think this one will haunt you for a long time to come.

 

 

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