Review: Waterloo & Trafalgar by Olivier Tallec

waterloo and trafalgar

Waterloo & Trafalgar by Olivier Tallec

Released October 22, 2012.

In this wordless picture book, two men watch one another over neighboring walls, separated only by a thin line of grass dotted with flowers.   Both sides of the wall are very similar, both men have spyglasses, drinks and umbrellas.  Their days are filled with boredom and suspicion, broken only by the appearance of a snail who visits them both and moments where they bother one another with music and loud noises.  It isn’t until a bird arrives and lays an egg that hatches and runs away that the truth of the conflict is revealed.  Tallec has managed in no words at all to show the fallacy of conflict and the way to peace.

Tallec uses humor here to bridge any divide.  It is mostly physical humor that will have children laughing, successfully mocking the conflict without any words at all.  The snail is a particularly inspired piece of humor that is sure to surprise and please.  So much of this book is about the surprises that life brings with the ending of the book providing the biggest and best surprise of all.  There is a great playfulness that invites readers into this serious situation to a degree that without it would not have been possible.  The wordless nature of the book also makes it particularly suited to a subject of crossing barriers.  I can see using this with people who speak different languages, allowing a depth of discussion that would be unusual with other wordless books.

This book is outstanding.  It speaks to peace without any preaching, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions.  It is a striking and vibrant example of what can be achieved with no words at all.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Helen’s Big World by Doreen Rappaport

helens big world

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares

This picture book biography of Helen Keller celebrates both the accomplishments of Helen Keller in overcoming her world of darkness and silence and those of her teacher Annie Sullivan.  The book begins with Helen as a small baby, before she had an unknown illness at 19 months that took her sight and hearing away.  It then moves through her attempts to continue to communicate, the frustration that caused her tantrums, and the slow progression of learning that led to the seminal moment at the water pump that connected the letters in her hand to the outside world.  Readers will see how Helen learned to write, read in Braille, and put her hands on people’s faces to feel their lips move so she could understand their speech.  The book continues to show how Helen Keller spoke up for social injustices that she felt were wrong.  This is a testament to what a brilliant mind and a great teacher can create.

Rappaport has somehow condensed the complicated story of Keller’s life into a very readable picture book that has a brisk pace and invites readers to find out more about this remarkable woman.  Throughout the book, Keller’s own words are used to illustrate points in the story.  Shown in their own font that is colorful and set apart from the rest of the text in size too, her words shine.

Tavares’ illustrations reveal the marvel of Helen Keller’s learning and education.  There is a light to the images once the learning begins that contrasts with the darkness of her earlier life.  Throughout Keller is shown experiencing the senses she does have, from the scent of a rose to the feel of the breeze on her face. 

An inspirational figure, Helen Keller continues to be a beacon for overcoming obstacles and using one’s mind.  This book is a beautiful tribute to her.  Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.