The Diverse Bookshelf: Draw! by Raul Colon

Draw!Draw! illustrated by Raul Colon

Here is the review I wrote on my library  blog: 

I had a really emotional reaction to this book. It is such an incredible story and told entirely without words. It reminds me of some of the best visual storytelling you see in movies (the opening credits of Watchmenand the tear-jerker montage in Up to name two) which is not easy to do well.

While in his room a young boy, possibly Colon, sits on his bed reading a book. The mood strikes him and he picks up his sketch pad. As you leave the world of his bedroom for the African continent the art style changes and the new style, a more lush, layered and colorful style, comes into view through a series of panels that grow in size indicating how they slowly fill the room and the boy’s mind. The effect is done in reverse when the boy returns from his adventure. In the fantasy you see small details included from the room. The backpack of bread slowly empties as the boy shares it with the creatures he meets. He wears the same clothes. It becomes apparent that the elephant is his guide through the savannah. It’s these subtle details that really make the story effective and more complex and therefore interesting.

The story, while about a boy drawing, is really about how art can transport you. And not just drawing but books as well. It’s the book the boy was reading that inspired him to pick up paper and visually represent what he had been reading. I think this book is great for quietly perusing, but is also a great inspriration for kids who love to draw, paint, and create. It would also be a good discussion starter for classes learning about art and inspiration. I know a lot of parents think picture books are for young children, but this book would be wonderful for any age as the story is so timeless and universal.

I want to address that last part of my review. Don’t discount wordless books (or picture books) for any age! They are great for learning visual literacy. They are great for storytelling. I love to ask Cam to help me interpret the story when we look at these types of books together. They are great for looking at details without the distraction of an author telling you the story. They are also wonderful at allowing the reader to add their own spin, interpretation, and experiences to the story. Kids will read picture books at any age so long as you, as the adult, aren’t telling them they are for younger kids, which they often aren’t. I know this doesn’t apply to wordless books, but picture books often have higher reading levels than those chapter books so many parents push on their kids and they require the added visual literacy piece of interpreting and meshing the pictures with the story told in words. Draw! is such a beautiful book and can be enjoyed in your collection for years to come. 

Here’s a great little article on The Horn Book blogs that talks about using wordless picture books in the classroom which could just as easily be done in the home (there are no grand activities to accompany the books, just the books themselves). 

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