Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Board Books Books Early Readers Genre Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

Classic Board Books Celebrating Creative Mistakes and Ingenious Errors

Eric Carle and Barney Saltzberg.

Myra here.

As I was looking for titles that fit our current reading theme, I chanced upon the board books section in the public library – and found a treasure trove of titles that seem perfect. Here are two of them, which can be considered classics, created by prolific and multi-award-winning artists.

The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse

Written and Illustrated by Eric Carle
Published by Philomel Books (2013).
ISBN: 0399164022 (ISBN13: 9780399164026). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Admittedly, I borrowed this book because it reminded me distinctly of Munich and Der Blaue Reiter, a group of artists who founded an art movement – including the likes of Franz Marc, Kandinsky, August Macke among others. I visited a number of museums featuring their works (including blue horses). I was also fortunate to be part of the library group who went to Kochel Am See to see the Franc Marc Museum, and Marc’s tombstone along with his wife (see my Photo Journal post).

This board book, however, did not go into much detail about the art movement. It simply celebrates how familiar animals can be rendered in different (often unexpected) colours. I find this to be an all-too-important message, especially since a lot of young children are rigidly being taught that red is strictly for apples, purple for grapes, blue for skies, and no shades in between.

It is a subtle reminder of the beauty of dancing shades; and that on paper, as one creates something glorious, there is no fixed formula of how things ought to be done. As I was reading through the Goodreads review of other friends, apparently, there is more information provided in the longer picturebook version of this title, with notes regarding Eric Carle’s history as an artist and some information about Franz Marc. I will have to find that one too.

Beautiful Oops!

Written and Illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
Published by Workman Publishing Company (2010).
ISBN: 076115728X (ISBN13: 9780761157281). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is a dynamic, fun, interactive book that transforms spills, stains, drips into something fantastic.

While I could anticipate how difficult it is to take care of books like this in the library (bane of pop-up or interactive titles), this is definitely worth the investment and the risk. It is cleverly executed and brilliantly packaged.

Despite the message being overwrought, Saltzberg conveyed it with unapologetic panache – indicating how reframing something and looking at the familiar with strange eyes (my favourite definition of creativity) can definitely make an Oops, infinitely beautiful.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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