{book} spells


DAY 12

Spells by Emily Gravett

Simon & Schuster, 2008. ages 4-8. girls & boys

the cover is pretty. the jacket flap is choice. and what follows?



Will “Lonely Frog, [a] fun-loving, attractive frog (2 1/2 inches tall)” find the right spell that could improve his chances with a beautiful princess? Don’t worry, the story is hardly as mushy as I just made it sound. Actually, there may be only one page of the kind of romantic drama that would have the grandson i/on The Princess Bride wonder if he wants to hear the next part. But he would want to hear it, and so with the Reader. Why am I only just now discovering Emily Gravett?!

After the first few introducing us to frog’s desire for adventure, the pages become bifurcated for a sequence allowing a layering outcomes. After all, the book Spells by Emily Gribbit is laying around in torn bits; which was all well and good when constructing a pirate adventure or a story involving castles and a prince kissing a beautiful princess. But he had an idea with the discovery of the top of a page that reads “Spell to become a Handsome Prince.”

The rhymes that create the mish-mash of spells are fun. On the left side of the page are the reconstituted spell pages and the right the top and bottom of various creatures. The top coordinating with the facing page’s allusion, as is the bottom with its facing page. They’ve the playful slicing and compounding of words to create all sorts of crazy outcomes, a “fabbit” (frog-rabbit), a “bake” (bird-snake). They also create the full creatures. Eventually, the spell for the Handsome Prince comes together with a “Bim Bam Barebum/Alaka mince. Stir three times and out spells Pr-ince” in all his naked but crowned glory. Good thing spells have that initial swirl of smoke? but then what…

We return to whole pages and the conclusion of the story. I won’t spoil it, but it is brilliant as it brings us all the way to the end-page and the “small print”… Spells is a really fun a creative way to explore books and not only the adventures they offer, but their play with invention.

The illustrator, who is also the author Emily Gravett, renders Spells in “pencil, watercolor paints, shredded paper, and a sprinkling of glitter.” She doesn’t go for higher chroma, but the contrast of aged paper and pale watercolored critters on the solid black backdrop is marvelous. The images that characterize the spell-books pages are clever and attractive; leaving the details for multiple viewings. There are nice touches: The vague silhouette of a candle where upon a soft glowing flame burns; its placement between the Handsome (frog) Prince and the Beautiful Princess as their lips move toward each other to kiss. It is all perfectly dramatic.

Spells is a picture book to have fun with: the frog is cute, putting the spells together is amusing, and I like the idea of running around creating chimera and crazy rhyming spell words. That you are putting letter combinations together as well is a lovely way to unconsciously play with language and literacy.

This my first book by this author/illustrator and I am really looking forward to finding more of Ms. Gravett’s books.

{all images belong to Emily Gravett}

Do check out this “Seven Questions over Breakfast” interview with 7 Impossible Things…blog.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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