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.