Review: What If? - Laura Vaccaro Seeger

What If?

written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Ages 4+

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press, April 2010

Happy Picture Book Saturday!

I have been especially fond of wordless books ever since I discovered Tuesday by David Wiesner (and yes, I know, it does have some words... but the point is, you can read the book without reading the words, and it doesn't significantly impact your experience of the book.  Such is the experience with What If?  The sum total words in this book are:

what
if
and
then
but
or

Seeger (niece by marriage of folk singer Pete Singer) tells, or rather shows, the story of three seals playing with a ball.  In the first two of three possible versions of the story, one seal is left out and feels sad.  In the third, they find an alternative that makes all three seals happy. 

My son, 2, is captivated by this book.  He can relate to playing on the beach with a ball, but I think more importantly he finds the feelings of the seals, so adorably presented on their little seal faces, accessible.  What child has not been left out, or left others out, intentionally or not?  Just as repetition is crucial to children learning to read, repetition of pictures is equally crucial to children learning to understand the importance of considering the feelings of others.  This would be a quick and easy springboard to a discussion of feelings without getting didactic. 

Laura Vaccaro Seeger's books have all been well regarded.  She received some recent acclaim when she received the Caldecott Honor, the NYT Best Illustrated Book of 2007 AND the Geisel Honor in one year (for First the Egg).  The following year, One Boy won a similar number of accolades.  But for sheer inventiveness, I especially love sharing Seeger's Walter Was Worried with children.  The book tells the story, in alliterative feeling statements, of children who are confounded by the weather, but the paintings show each feeling using the letters from the feeling word to create the child's face.  For example, if you look closely at the picture of Walter to the right, you can see each of the letters in WOrrIeD. 

It's really pretty amazing what Seeger can share in her seemingly simple illustrations.  I look forward to sharing them with my students this year, and listening to what they see.

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