BOOK REVIEW: On teaching kids about people of color (blue) - Danny Blue's Really Excellent Dream by Max Landrak
|Children's Book Council Picture Book of the Year - Notable Book: |
An excellent book for teaching kids (and the rest of us) about diversity - or at least being a bit different
Once in a
How easy is it to write a good 10-and-under children's book?
Flip through the dozens of thin, large-format offerings in the 10-and-under kids section of any bookstore and you think, c'mon, how hard can that be? Large type, short sentences, the occasional big word thrown in (because kids these days listen to your business calls) and of course, cutesy illustrations - not photos. Drawings please.
Hey, my kid could do that!
But flip a little slower and you'll discover just what it takes to achieve that winning trifecta: a fresh, engaging voice that's accessible but not infantile; a plot that's uncomplicated but not predictable; a visual treatment you feel you haven't seen somewhere else before ... all laddering up to a stunning central premise that's carried unslavishly to the final endpaper. And if it's also a parable without being preachy, all the better. Once in a blue moon, a book nails it.
Danny Blue's Really Excellent Dream by Australian-Norwegian author, art director and illustrator Max Landrak is a beautifully crafted modern parable, centered around the personal growth of its central character, Danny Blue.
Danny's world is blue to the core (and we're just talking about color here, not clinical depression - that's a dozen other kid's books). He has a dream about something "not blue," but lacks the "not blue" vocabulary to describe it. So he sets about trying to create it in the basement of his father's business, conveniently a paint factory. He succeeds, but as you'd expect, his new discovery is met with horror and rejection by all and sundry, before being tolerated, accepted, embraced and eventually even coveted. All it needs is a name...
The words are so carefully chosen, it's almost like reading haiku without the obtuseness. Not surprising, as Max is an award-winning advertising industry pro, where the mantra is "there more you say, the less people hear" and "say it straight, then say it great." The sprinkling of "blue" puns (Blue York et al) are well chosen so as to support rather than cutesify* the story.
The format is standard "children's book" i.e. magazine-sized hardcover - I would have loved to have seen this book published in a smaller format, with more pages and on a tactile board medium that you could prod and poke and flip back and forth, because each illustration is so apropos it deserves space to "breathe" on its own page.
Published by Hachette Australia, Danny Blue was was named an Australia Children's Book Council Notable Book in the Picture Book of the Year category.
So it's a downunder publication, but Max tells me you'll soon be able to get copies in the USA. It remains to be seen if the only Aussie-centric word in the book gets 'mercanized for local audiences. Which is ...
*Is that even a word? Let's just call it "the copywriter busting out."