The first artist featured on the Picture Book Month calendar is two-time Caldecott Medal Winner Chris Raschka. I’m trying to keep pace with the calendar and blog about either the person or the theme featured each day of this month on the calendar. Some days I might even be able to do both.

Title: A Ball for Daisy
Author/Illustrator: Chris Raschka
ISBN: 9780375858611
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc. c2011.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t read Raschka’s Caldecott winning book about a dog and her ball until today. I realize many will think I’m a horrible librarian because of it, but I’m going to admit that I’m much more drawn to details in pictures than I am the rough, bare-bones pictures. So when I saw the cover when the awards were announced, I kind of went “it’s cute” and moved on. Maybe that’s how Chris Raschka intended it, since he writes in his guest post today over at the Picture Book Month website:

“I always try to treat the book itself as the artwork,” Chris Raschka says. “I don’t want you to stop while you’re reading one of my books and say, ‘Oh! What a gorgeous illustration!’ I want you to stop at the end of the book and say, ‘This is a good book.’ ”

Once you get past the cover, I was right, it is cute. I think the page that finally got me to stop and really look at the drawings was the two page spread [spoiler alert] after the ball pops and Daisy goes through all these emotions. And Raschka portrays them without a single word, and does it beautifully, in spite of or maybe regardless of the wordless nature of the story. Because we now see Daisy (which we only know is her name because of the title) looking at the ball quizzically, trying to determine what happened, and then slowly coming to that realization and looking so forlorn as a result.

It’s traumatic to her, and we see that on the following pages as she trudges slowly home, big floppy ears that used to be so animated now drooping. Her posture has sunken, and she can’t get comfortable on the couch because she misses her ball. A new blue ball quickly resolves the problem, and Daisy forgets about the red ball from the moment she spots it. Raschka obviously and accurately portrays the dog’s fickle nature of one ball is as good as another, especially when the alternative is no ball at all.

So in its own way the pictures are detailed in that we know exactly what’s going on in the story. Maybe these pictures are even more detailed than other illustrators’ works of art because they need the assistance of words to tell the story. But while I like the story and the pictures, I don’t think I would have instantly thought “Award winner” if I had seen the book outside of that context. But he is right, in that I do find myself saying by the end of it “That was a good book.”

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