On Monday evening I was luck enough to be in the audience listening to Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston talk about their journey in creating ‘A Child of Books’ (Walker Books).
This book is really a hymn to the power and joy of stories (especially in books). I had bought it previously and I must confess, being the philistine that I am, that I wondered who this book was really for. I knew it would appeal to adults like me who love the art of picture books because it is absolutely beautiful. The way that Sam uses text as image to convey meaning and depth is wonderful. I did wonder, however, whether (whisper it) this was really a book for reading aloud with children. Heresy, I know!
I’m so glad I went to hear Oliver and Sam speak about it and to hear their vision for how the book is being read and received by children and educators. It was really inspirational and helped me see new depth in this text that I can see will keep readers interested over repeated visits. This is a very different picture book with a great deal of depth for older readers and I’m sure others will not need the remedial help that I did!
I also had a personal epiphany during the evening. I realised that this book, and other picture books, which combine the power of image and language are doing the same thing as sign language. Signing is one of my great joys and I look forward to Xmas every year when I lead a pop-up choir of deaf and hearing signers sharing the songs of Christmas. Telling a story in sign is a very special experience for givers and receivers. It is a shared moment of linguistic and visual understanding. Just like sharing a good picture book. And ‘A Child of Books’ is definitely one to share and savour.