Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
I love Jeannie Baker's books. My recent review of Mirror probably made that clear. Today I'd like to tell you about Baker's children's picture book, Belonging, published by Walker Books 2007 (originally published 2004).
A powerful wordless account of the greening, year by year, of a typical urban landscape.
As in the author's previous picture book, Window, this book is observed through the window of a house in a typical urban neighbourhood, each picture showing a year's developments. This is Window in reverse, with the land being reclaimed from built-up concrete to a gradual greening, shown through the artist's characteristic collage illustrations.
A key factor to my deep appreciation of Baker's books is the art work. Her collages are intricate, and kids will love to identify elements like earth, feathers, and wool. There are so many details to notice, and ponder over! Do the car models change over time? How does Tracy, the baby at the start, change as she gets older? What happens in her life? Let's read all the signs and graffiti. How do the people get rid of the grafitti? Why did that happen? I wonder how the artist made the roof?
Belonging works on many different levels. I love that it has a hopeful conservation message for the improvement of our planet but it offers much more. As a wordless picture book, teachers and parents will value its opportunities for language development, discussion and storytelling. Children can use it as a puzzle book, identifying the changes in each view through the window. And all of us can be inspired to make changes to our environment so we can nurture and be nurtured by it.
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