Welcome back to the second installment of What We Took Out From the Library Last Week, a brief glimpse at the FIVE books my five-year-old daughter checked out during our last trip to our local library. We’re going in order, so I can now tell you that the second book we picked out is… a very unusual book. It’s a picture book. (OK.) And a word book. (Seems a bit young for a five-year-old.) A 200-page word book. (What? Really?) A 200-page word book that teaches kids about contortionists, centaurs, fakirs, tattooed men, rabbis, cat burglars, and more. (You’re messing with me, right? Right?)
Reason Why France Is Pretty Cool #497: A guy can rename himself “Blexbolex” and it doesn’t seem completely ridiculous. I mean, it’s a little odd, but I think the guy pulls it off. Maybe I’m just cutting him some slack because I’m so fond of his book. People is easily one of the best designed and most visually stunning titles we’ve checked out from the library all year. We’ve danced around it for the past few weeks. The past three times we’ve been at the library, my daughter has taken it off the shelf, paged through it, considered it, and put it back. For whatever reason, last Friday was the day the book finally came home with us and I’m glad it did. I suppose you could call People a word book – it just has a single illustration of a person and a word describing that person on each page – but it’s really so much more than that.
(For those of you who don’t know, a “word book” is a pretty common kind of picture book for really young readers. It’s primary purpose is, simply, to teach children new words. They’re filled with images of common, everyday things and the word identifying each object appears right underneath the image. Richard Scarry is the KING of the word book.)
The illustrations in People are beautiful. They’re wonderfully simple and iconic representations of different kinds of human beings, done in a fashion that almost makes them look they’re screen-printed or stamped onto each page. But Blexbolex’s concept goes way, way beyond where normal word books leave off. People is a big book – 200-plus pages – and Blexbolex fills each page with extremely insightful images of a HUGE variety of people. And we’re not just talking about firemen and doctors.
The book starts with a two-page spread of Man and Woman, but, after that, the pairings get more and more specific and unique. You get match-ups like Couple -Bachelor, Corpse-Retiree, Friend-Foe, Builder-Demolisher, Monk-Rabbi, Nudist-Invisible Man, Amputee-Cyclops, Princess-Werewolf, and so on. Some of the people-types are a little on the unusual or almost macabre side, but there’s nothing mean-spirited or inappropriate about them. My daughter loved encountering words, terms, and personality-types that she’d never encountered before. (“Daddy, what’s an Emir?”)
And some of Blexbolex’s pairings – like Woodcutter-Executioner or Homeless Person-Camper – are so intentionally provocative that it’s both fun for parents to read and it’s fun to watch kids realize the implied relationships on their own. I had a very interesting talk with my daughter on the walk home from the library about the strange similarities and differences between a Hunter and a Solider. People might not be for everyone, but I’m looking forward to the discussions I know it’s going to start.
Remember to check back in tomorrow to see our third library pick from last week. I’ll give you a clue. It’s a book inspired by a movie. And it’s about a war in the stars. (Is it The Late Shift: Kids’ Edition or something else? Come back tomorrow and find out.)