Monday, April 9, 2012

Would someone please tell me the connection between a yeti and a secretary?

People by Blexbolex (305. BlP 2011 PIC BK) is a book that will make you smile, chuckle, toy with your expectations and will make your brain hurt.  OY!

It starts off innocuously enough – a two-page spread with an image of a man one side and a woman on the other.  The illustrations are simple and very 1950/60s retro in style rendered in flat colours, with only some of the people having features.  The text is one or two words on the top of each page.

 The next spread is ‘couple’ and ‘bachelor’.  Okay, a little odd for selection choice but you can see connections between the pictures of a ‘couple’ (young man and woman holding hands, perhaps looking at the bachelor on the next page) and the ‘bachelor’ (a lone gentleman, holding a rose, sitting and perhaps looking at the ‘couple’).  Is there a story here?

The next couple of spreads are pretty logical in their connections – mother to baby, father (carrying child) to family (group of four, mother, father, boy and girl).  Easy, right?  Next spread: ‘corpse’ and ‘retiree’.  Huh?  The corpse comes first.   Again, is there a story connecting the two pictures?  Or, maybe not…

And on this goes. It’s interesting to see which ‘people’ he has decided to include: everyday (a listener, a builder, plumber, cop, robber), unexpected (executioner, fishmonger, Bedouin, castaway, nudist), and even pseudo real (ghost, scarecrow, Santa, alien, mermaid). Some of the strangeness comes from an ordinary label with an unexpected visual – ‘bodyguard’ is a samurai, or the ‘outlaw’ looks like Zorro.

There is lots of play here.  For example there are two spreads with the word hunter.  The first one has a ‘hunter’ that you might find in a northern forest, a plump man in camo, holding a gun and walking with a dog, juxtaposed with a ‘soldier,’ a trim man in camo running while holding a much longer gun.  A little further along in the book we see another ‘hunter,’ this time a slim, scantily clad aboriginal hunter holding a blow pipe and looking as if to aim his dart at the vampire on the next page.

One pair of images that had colleagues talking was ‘speaker’ versus ‘snakecharmer’.  What were the connections?  I could see visual similarities between the stand up mic (long winding cord and mic head) and the coiled snake.  Janet could conceptualize the ‘charming’ that both of these people do, and Lynn pointed out the comb-over and ‘Hilter-esque’ moustache  of the speaker.  Talk about layers.

As you page through this book, the images take you aback and make you think.  You begin to think about how we label things and the differences between what makes a ‘traveller’ versus an ‘immigrant’ or a ‘vagabond’ versus a ‘Bedouin’ or a ‘homeless person’ versus a ‘camper’. To think about how there can be similarities between seemingly disparate groups of people.

This is not the best book for young children.  Yes, they will get some of the images but I think the older you are the more you will appreciate this intriguing book.  Do I see a use for it in the classroom?  You bet!  What an interesting discussion starter for, let’s say, visual literacy, social issues, labels, art.

Really enjoyed this one.  It drew me in and got me thinking.  But, really – if someone out there could tell what the connection is between a secretary and yeti, I would be forever in your debt.  Drop me a line – please.

 Check out Ana's Nonfiction Blog for a great roundup of nonfiction children's literature.


Roberta said...

This does look incredibly intriguing, although I do wonder about the intended audience as well.

Thank you for sharing it.

GatheringBooks said...

Hi Tammy, this sounds like a multi-layered book as you have pointed out, something that I'd definitely enjoy sharing with my ten year old daughter. I love how it could suit both a younger child's sensibilities as well as an older child's with those parallels/divergences/similarities in imagery and metaphors. Nice find! :) Thanks for sharing this. Will pin this in my Pinterest Board. :)

Books4Learning said...

Wow! sounds amazing! I will see if my library has a copy of this one. Thanks for your wonderful review!

Kelsey said...

You have me interested as always! I will be seeking out this book. And, I can't stop trying to come up with a good connection between a yeti and a secretary.

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