You may think: CV, even you cannot write an over- 250 word book review of a tiny book with no words. You would be wrong and here is why: I have a lot of words in me and also I’m going to cheat.
Mercer Mayer is a brilliant illustrator of children’s books, probably best known for his Little Critter books. (This is the part where I cheat by going on about other books.) That series follows the adventures of a weird little guy identified only as the Little Critter. The books are told in his first-person perspective, with the text telling his side of the story while the illustrations show what’s “really” happening. My favourite of these is The Lost Dinosaur Bone, whereby Little Critter very helpfully investigates a missing triceratops bone at the museum. From his perspective, all the museum staff welcome his help, while the pictures show him getting in the way and being chased by various guards. What I love about Little Critter is that he always has good reasons for what he is doing, even though those reasons don’t make sense to the adults in his life. Like kids, just trying to figure things out by doing them while the grown-ups are freaking out for some reason.
Back to the actual book I’m supposedly reviewing– This was Mayer’s first published book. He is credited as being one of the first illustrators to use the no-word format. The reason it works is he is brilliant and is not telling a story so much as showing what happens. A boy and his dog go to a pond and try to catch a frog in a net. They fail. The frog decides to follow them home and joins them in the bath. Everyone is happy. The End. There are 5 more wordless books in this series about various everyday events in the lives of the boy, his dog and his frog. All simple and charming.
The reason I love Mercer Mayer is that he understands that in a book for the pre-literate, BOTH the words and the pictures matter. The illustrations have to reward viewing. My squishies can’t read yet, but they love to pore over their books, examing each picture for every detail. Mayer’s deceptively simple illustrations have a lot of detail that both illuminates and expands the text. You can *read* and love these books before you can actually read them. The boy, dog, frog books have something interesting to look at on every page, which I think is Mayer’s signature style. (This is where I’m going to justify my previous cheating:) Every page of a Little Critter book has a tiny spider and mouse hidden somewhere in it. They aren’t part of the main story and are never referenced in the text, but they are there for you to find.
I recommend any and all Mercer Mayer books. Even though it is my unproven suspicion that his later Little Critter books are ghost- illustrated, as the charm and detail is lost in a more generic, almost computer-generated style, they are still among the best books for the very young reader.
(522 words you guys… I’m just saying, cheating works!)