Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Costume Party

The Costume Party, written and illustrated by Victoria Chess.

The Plot: It's raining, and Nico, Fanny, Claude, Daisy and Rose (five dogs) are bored. Madame Coco has the perfect solution to boring raining days: a costume party, just like when she was little and it rained and rained.

The Good: The story itself is solid: a bunch of bored dogs, then Madame Coco thinks up something fun to do, and the boredom goes away not only because of the party but also because of the fun preparing for the party.

Sometimes kids get rushed out of picture books because the books are viewed as suitable only for those who can't read "real" books. As soon as a child is reading on his or her own, away from the picture books and on to the "real" chapter books. But this ignores that we live in a visual world, a world that is not just words but is also pictures. Good picture books help us to pause and look beyond the words. (On another post I'll talk about picture books that, because of the story, are for older readers or adults).

The most obvious information a reader gets from The Costume Party is that Nico & co. are dogs. But there are other things, also. Chess writes, "They were very, very bored. It had been raining for many days, and they could only go outside for a tiny moment at a time." And the picture shows five little dogs doing what little dogs do outside. And I'm not talking playing fetch. My mother looked at this page and said, "Ingrid (my niece) won't be able to stop laughing when she sees that."

This book was originally published in France, and the author lives part of the year in France. One of the touches that shows this is that the language of items in the pictures is French; it hasn't been changed to English. The telephone book is "pages jaunes". Again, not an obvious detail -- but that's what makes picture books fun. The details.

Overall, a fun book with bright, detailed illustrations.

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