A while back I found a book from Reycraft Books that (at the time) was a future publication. And since I enjoyed it and the person I was dealing with was so delightful to work with (I had asked for a reader copy and we conversed via email for a bit), I have found myself wanting to read more Reycraft Books. I found the title Woodpecker Girl in my research. Locating an online sample of the book, I realized that was not enough. I said, Pretty Please Library Loan Please, to my local library and they found me a copy. The results of my reading showed that this book has a lot of layers, and yet, is also very simple.
I have now read the book three times (sadly I can only review once). The first time, I read the text and enjoyed the illustrations. I knew a little from my earlier research that the art was based on the real Woodpecker Girl’s work (the person the book is based on is a woman who has cerebral palsy and her art teacher found a unique way to help her paint), but also was Heidi Doll’s unique style. When I then read it a second time I focused on the illustrations, because when I read the author and illustrator biographies, I learned that Doll had put two things on each page. There is a “game” for you to find a not-so-hidden-item and a somewhat hidden gem within the detailed pages. (SPOILER) There is a woodpecker and rabbit on each page. The woodpecker represents the freedom of Yipei Huang, the person the book is based on, and the rabbit is Doll as a spirit protector of sorts to the subject. And of course, I had seen the woodpecker, but not the rabbit and I had to find the two animals (hence reading two). It is not easy to find the rabbit, especially if you’re reading online. Which was my third reading. I found a video of someone reading the story. However, since I was at work, I did not think I should listen to it (I am saving the link for “Read Number Four”) and read the captions. I was also not sure if I had speakers yet or not (I have an odd computer) so subtitles it was. There was a bit more than just a reading/listening video, such as there was a few minutes with Yipei Huang themselves.
In the afterwards of the co-writers, I-Tsun Chiang and Chingyen Liu (and in the video) we get more background material as the story itself is poetic and romanticizing (but keeping it realistic). The life of the person in the wheelchair of the page is the narrator and she tells us the story of her frustrations with her body’s limitations, her lack of communication, her anger at not being included or having friends, even the sadness of not being able to cuddle her puppy. The art is lofty and airy as well. They fit each other by complementing each other. When we learn that the person of the story “dabs” at the page, we see that style reflected on the page. We will learn that it was not until this person was almost out of school were they able to paint. We see the freedom painting gives them, and the talent they found. You can see several actual paintings within the story and several examples are at the end. It is a fully loaded book.
The ages are all over the place, as you just need to know your reader, but ages five and up (and of course adults) would work well. However, for the older readers the oversized picture book format could turn some people off. And you do not have to like art to enjoy, as the theme covers many different areas.