Sitting down to read a stack of picture books is one of life’s little pleasures. Especially when those books are an ever-changing delight thanks to our friendly local library. Each read-through is a journey of imagination and learning. But if your kids are anything like mine, they regularly pick up on inconsistent text and illogical illustrations.
At three, my son was upset each time we turned the page of an otherwise charming board book that showed mother squirrel pouring milk into baby squirrel’s cup. Even as a toddler my child could tell the perspective was all wrong. The illustration clearly depicted milk emerging from the pitcher’s spout at an angle that would dump liquid over the baby’s head instead of into the cup held an arm’s length away. My little boy was clearly distressed by the mama’s milk-pouring disability and the baby’s ignorance of the impending disaster. He began warning both characters a few pages ahead of that dreaded scene.
My kids have noticed quite a few minor errors in picture books over the years, many of them things that a busy parent wouldn’t catch. “Why does it say the little boy is wearing his dinosaur shirt but the picture shows him in a dragon shirt?” and “Why does it say lunchtime but the sky is dark?” and “Why did they leave the baby in the stroller outside the museum?”
I’ve worked as a freelance book editor for the last decade or so, but I don’t presume to do a better job than the average child. We all know kids have some kind of built-in error detector. That’s why, when I was sent a review copy of The Loud Book! by Deborah Underwood I asked my kids to take a look. It’s a darling book portraying all sorts of furry creatures making (you guessed it) noise. My kids aren’t preschoolers any more, so their analysis is a bit more reasoned. They found the approach itself somewhat illogical. The book features only two or three word phrases (like “oops loud”) on most pages, making it appear to be aimed at a preschool or early reader audience. But it’s not a clear fit for either crowd. Many of the pictures portray experiences beyond the average preschooler’s life such as walking to school, dropping a cafeteria lunch tray, and making a stage entrance. On the other hand, it isn’t well-suited to early readers because of vocabulary-building but overly challenging word choices such as “applause,” “deafening,” “avalanche,” and “collapsing.” Overall, my kids thought it was a cute book. But then, they aren’t sitting on my lap making me explain “bad crash loud.”
Any picture book confusion in your family?