Minimalism Rules in March Picture Books

Filed under: Books for Kids

It's often the books with the biggest visual wow factor that get the most attention, the ones with lush, highly-detailed paintings or complicated pop-ups that require an engineering degree to construct. But telling a good story -- one with real depth of feeling -- with a minimal amount of words and images can sometimes be an even more impressive feat. Several of this month's picture book releases show how much can be said with very little.

The Falling Raindrop by Neil Johnson & Joel Chin (Tricycle Press, $15)
Books don't really get more minimalist than this. Most of the illustrations contain nothing but a single blue droplet of water (with a face, of course -- this is a children's picture book, after all) on a blank background. The entire story takes place within the time span of that raindrop's descent from cloud to earth. And the fact that the book's creators manage to fit several different emotional arcs into that one plummet is nothing short of amazing.

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon by Randall de Séve, illustrated by Jen Corace (Balzer & Bray, $16)
Backgrounds are so unnecessary. With the exception of a few random leaves of grass, the bored and unimaginative sheep of this tale appear to live in a world as colorless as they are. Their ennui would never have been so apparent to readers had Jen Corace painted rich vistas of scenery behind them. And when color does enter the tale, in the form of the titular balloon, it's all the more brilliant.

Forever Friends by Carin Berger (Greenwillow, $17)
There's plenty of color in Berger's beautiful collage work, but relatively few actual objects on any given page. With only a tree or two, she manages to suggest an entire forest. And in this incredibly simple, sweet tale of friendship between a rabbit and a bird, Berger masterfully uses negative space to bring the two either together or apart.

The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na (Knopf, $20)
An elephant finds an umbrella and doesn't know what it is. That's pretty much the whole story (sorry I didn't say, "Spoiler Alert"). But the very few words that tell this story -- combined with Na's wildly attractive illustrations -- make up an adorable and hilarious romp for preschoolers.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, $17)
Jeffers is a modern master in the world of picture books, but his latest is really something special. It's a heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting fable about loss, grief, and rebirth -- presented in a much subtler way than any of those grand themes would suggest. For example, he manages to wring a ridiculous amount of emotion out of a single empty chair. A true feat.

Related: When Big Authors Write for Little People


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.