A Picture Book Of the Week (PBOW) feature

One Cool Friend
Tony Buzzeo, author
David Small, illustrator
Dial, 2012
Caldecott Honor

I wrote a 5 page paper on this lovely gem during my 2013 spring semester. I’ll try to keep this post a bit shorter…but you never know! That’s what happens when you start talking about a great picture book. The more you study it and read it, the more you see.

Let’s start with the cover of this book: Notice the frosty aqua blue spine with hand drawn wavy grid lines? Does it remind you of ice cubes and cold places? Oh–look at that penguin on the front! Yes, we’re in for a cold one. But not a dreary cold place: this is a fun cold place. After all the boy and penguin look like they are best friends and also share a secret. The font choice is breezy and playful as well with the word “cool” printed in the same cool aqua shade; is the friend “cool,” as in “cold,” or “cool,” as in “popular, fun, awesome”? Both, as it turns out.

Endpapers are next. The endpapers of this book continue the cool aqua association as well as those hand drawn white grid lines that remind one of ice cubes. Brrrr….

Opening pages: We see Magellan (the penguin) up close and personal, and doesn’t he look a charmer? On the next page, we see Elliott (the boy), and he looks dapper as well. The perceptive reader notices that both the penguin and the boy look alike (in palette, at least). The penguin is the “friend” in the title–after all, he’s pointing at the word on the title page. And Elliott looks like he’s got a little secret. His presence at the far right of that first page invites us to turn the page and find out.

Palette: this book is a terrific example of a well chosen–and well used–palette. Note the frosty blue, the black and white, the spots of red (where the action is!), and the suspicious turtle-green color associated with Elliott’s dad. Hmm…. as we look more closely at these colors, we might notice a suspicious-looking turtle shape in a few pictures. Or that the dad is always linked to this color much like Elliott and Magellan are linked to the spots of aqua and red on a black and white backdrop. Huh. Who or what is the father dressed like? Aaaahh… Cook it is.

Perspective: Another element Small uses effectively in this book is perspective. Palette goes hand in hand with perspective since it’s usually a particular color that is drawing our eye to part of a page. But Small cleverly shields us from noticing the obvious by providing only part of an image. A reread shows us some striking partial turtle-shapes as well as other details (maps and the like) that we missed the first time around because our eyes were drawn to something completely different.

All in all, this is a delightful book to read once, twice, three times–looking closely at the elements mentioned above as you read. When you look for particular elements, like palette, then it’s easier to start appreciating why certain books win awards even if at first glance you don’t find the book remarkable. (For the record, *I* found this book remarkable before the Caldecotts were announced :-). )

What do YOU think of this book? Like it? No? Why not?

Next PBOW: I want it to be Moonday by Adam Rex (September, 2013–you may need to look at this in a bookstore because libraries won’t have it yet), but I’m not sure I’ll make it back to the bookstore for another read before then. So, it will be Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (2013 publication, but should be in local libraries by now.)