Friday, May 6, 2011

A Tale of Two Cultures: Mirror

I've been a fan of Jeannie Baker's whimsical picture books since my student teaching prac in Australia. One of the librarians at my school recommended her books when I'd asked her for a list of notable Australian children's authors.

Baker creates wonderfully detailed pictures from found objects and often her books have few, if any, words. Baker's books are great for encouraging children to retell stories.

Mirror (Candlewick Press, November 2010) is an especially unique book. It is comprised of two almost parallel stories, joined together in one book. One story is a day in the life of an Australian boy who lives with his immediate family in Sydney. The other story is that of a Morrocan boy who lives in a small village with his extended family. It's interesting to compare and contrast the two boys' lives since they are quite similar in many ways but very different in others. Amazingly, the two boys' lives/paths connect in a seemingly small yet significant way.

We particularly enjoyed the way Baker constructed this book. Each story may be read separately, one after the other or they may be read at the same time which is how we first read the book. Also, it's interesting to note that the preface and the author's notes are written in both English and Arabic. I have to say, too, I like how books like this one help us, in the West, to better understand other cultures and their values, especially now during such difficult and uncertain times in the East.