March 23, 2012

Like magic, one thing leads to another

By Laura Vaccaro Seeger
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Laura Vaccaro Seeger has a special gift, a gift I do not have but one I deeply appreciate. She can take a simple idea and turn it into a book that moves and changes and takes the reader’s breath away. Her newest, Green, might be my favorite. I have to say “might” because I am drawn to every book she has created.

First, the cover. The word "green," printed in mottled white, yellow and blue, rests on a bath of thickly textured green paint. It begs to be touched, and I imagine children will be surprised when the paint does not come off on their hands. Second, the title page. The green title now rests on deep brown, and the brown is a signal that this book is about color in its most saturated form.

Seeger’s love of die cuts must be an engineering challenge like no other for her publisher and printer. Each cut is a surprise, and many of them are impossible to see until the page is turned. On the first page, the words are “forest green.” A small white bunny distracts the eye from the largish green leaves but the page turn reveals the die cuts which have magically morphed into brownish fish in the ocean scene on the next page. And so it goes: Fish bubbles turn into a lime skin and the lime section becomes a spoon, and so on.

I have read this book at least 10 times, but each time I have to actually run my hand over the page to find the next die cut. It’s that sneaky and well constructed. Even when the cut is easy to see—on the jungle/khaki pages—the reader is rewarded with a hidden clue in the frame. I can imagine art teachers exploring this book with students of all ages—both for the use of color and also for the perspective changes, use of texture and line, and the joy of dark and light.

In a world where the word “green” is politically charged, I am grateful that Seeger has created a joyful, comforting book that assures us the world will be “forever green.”

Robin Smith, who teaches second grade at the Ensworth School in Nashville, was a member of the 2011 Caldecott Committee.

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By Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Neal Porter/Roaring Brook
ISBN 9781596433977

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