Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

By Jeannie Baker
Candlewick, 40 pages
$18.99, ages 4 to 8

Two books. Same title. Published the same year. Both thought-provoking.
The resemblance stops there.
Mirror by Jeanne Baker tells the story of a day in the lives of two families, one in Australia, the other in Morocco, North Africa.
You open the book to find two books in one. The Australian story reads from left to right, the Moroccan tale from right to left. Each nearly wordless tale begins in a cozy home, follows the father and son out on a shopping trip, then back home with their purchases. Not surprisingly there are many differences between the two cultures, but Baker has also made the two stories artfully mirror one another, both in broad concepts and in smaller details that readers will enjoy spotting.
Some scenes that at first glance appear worlds apart, on closer examination and discussion reveal fascinating similarities. The Australian father and son travel through traffic and construction to get to the hardware store. The Moroccan boy and his dad travel by donkey through desert and mountains to get to the village marketplace. But both routes are circuitous. One of the purchases the Australian boy and dad make is a "magic carpet" (made by the Moroccan family). Selling the carpet enables the other family to buy a computer (perhaps from a computer store pictured in the Australian city). At the end of the day, the Australian boy and his family sit on the carpet in front of a fire. He's drawn a picture of them flying off on together on a magic carpet over sand dunes and palm trees. The Moroccan boy and his dad and other family members are gathered around the new computer looking at Morocco surrounded by many other countries on a globe. So both families are transported by their purchases.
Baker's illustrations are beautiful and detailed collages. 
By Suzy Lee
Seven Footer Kids, 48 pages
$15.95, ages 4 to 8

This is another wordless "Mirror," but packed with powerful emotions and darker overtones than the first. A little girl hunches sad and and alone in a corner, then she discovers her reflection. At first she's shy, then goofy, then delighted. Dancing ensues, becoming ever more exuberant. There's a lovely spread, wild with lyrical swirls of black, yellow and orange. But then what's happening? The two images merge and disappear into the fold. After two blank pages they're back, but they are now moving independently. There's anger. For the first time the mirror becomes visible. Glass shatters. The girl is miserably alone again. Children will be puzzled, but that's clearly Lee's intent. There is much to discuss here. The low-key color scheme – mostly black, with touches of yellow and orange, and abundant white space, reinforces the deceptively simple story and complex emotional content.


Julie said...

It's not wordless but there was also Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer. It is always strange when titles come in groups, like the Mockingjay/Mockingbird cluster last year too.

Rebecca Young said...

It is strange. Mockingbird is on my list to read. It's supposed to be tremendous.