Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Review, Mirror

Sometimes we find a work so exquisite, so meaningful, it makes our hearts sing. That's how I feel about Mirror, by Jeannie Baker, published by Walker Books, 2010. It's a wordless picture book, with introductions and author's notes in Arabic and English.

There are two boys and two families in this book.
One family lives in a city in Australia
and one lives in Morocco in North Africa.
The lives of the two boys and their families
look very different from each other
and they are different.
But some things connect them ...
just as some things are the same for all families
no matter where they live.

I haven't seen a picture book design quite like this before. The book's binding allows us to open it in the middle, so we can view the two families mirrored side-by-side. We can also read each story separately. Or we can consider only one page at a time. There is such a wealth of material in this book - to look at, discuss and appreciate - I can see it contributing to visual literacy lessons in schools across grades and months! As we gaze and absorb, we become aware that despite all the differences between the two families, their lives revolve around the same routines and needs we all share. Despite the differences, when we really get to know other families, it's like looking into a mirror and seeing ourselves.

As with other Jeannie Baker books, the illustrations are collages, crafted in exquisite detail. There's so much to appreciate - the painstaking lengths Baker went to to duplicate the look and feel of Moroccan desert, the textures of both urban and desert environments, the differently formatted pages showing cameos of daily life. Each page is a new delight - food for thought, discussion, and our souls.

I've been a fan of Baker's work since way back when I shared Where the Forest Meets the Sea with a class of five-year-olds. One little fellow reached out with a look of wonder in his eyes, and gently touched the picture with the very tips of his stubby fingers. I think he expressed the way we all feel when we become engrossed in Baker's books. Mirror will produce that same look of wonder, and inspire that same love of books and reading. The world needs books like this, books that break down barriers between people. I urge you to seek it out.


  1. Rebecca Newman17 August, 2010

    Oh I definitely want this book! My kids would love it (which is code for I would love it ... but I know my kids would too.).

  2. Book Chook17 August, 2010

    Rebecca, I honestly think it's one of those books every family will want. Okay, maybe not every family, but every family that appreciates beauty and books.

  3. Kelly Be A Fun Mum18 August, 2010

    I want this book! I love wordless books. I did my own here:

  4. Book Chook18 August, 2010

    Kelly, what a lovely idea! I am so envious of your drawing skills, but totally agree wordless books are a great way to encourage empathy in our kids.

    I hope readers will link and take advantage of Kelly offering to share the free book she made.

  5. Green Mama18 August, 2010

    I saw Jeannie Baker's exhibition of Where the Forest Meets the Sea when I was in Tassie at their art centre. I was escaping from the Olympics in 2000 and the exhibition was breathtaking. I've been hooked on her books ever since but those kelp forests are still awe-inspiring. Can't wait to see this one.

  6. Book Chook18 August, 2010

    It truly is beautiful, Green Mama. All her books are I know, but this is unique in concept and design.

    In case readers have an opportunity to visit the exhibition of Jeannie's artwork for Mirror, it's in Sydney now, moves on to Melbourne, Adelaide, Ipswich etc. http://www.jeanniebaker.com/belonging_exhibition.htm

  7. Green Mama18 August, 2010

    Wow thanks for this, will take the big cherub along to the exhibition. Then I will look forward to a house full of collages!

  8. Book Chook18 August, 2010

    If they'll let you, take pics! It would be lovely to share your experience.

  9. Read Aloud Dad11 October, 2010

    Thanks for the great review of the new Jeannie Baker book. Until now, I haven't read any of her books but Mirror sounds like a real cosmopolitan treat.

    By the way, I've just discovered your book review blog - it looks great.

    Greetings from a fellow reviewer of children's books

    Read Aloud ... Dad http://readalouddad.blogspot.com

  10. Thanks for stopping by, Read Aloud Dad!


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