Thursday, February 19, 2009

Graeme Base

Graeme Base is one of those illustrators who covers every millimeter of page with color. Every time you read a book by Graeme Base you will discover something new in the illustrations. I have not, unfortunately, had the pleasure of reading every book Graeme Base has ever written, but I have read quite a few. Today, I’d like to share a few of my favorites.

Uno’s Garden tells the story of a man named Uno who moves into the forest and builds a small house. When he arrives, there are all kinds of amazing animals, created and named by Graeme Base. There are Moopaloops, and Lumpybums, Snagglebites and Flipperflaps, and one completely ordinary Snortlepig. But over time, people move into the forest and put up buildings. The plants and animals slowly disappear until there are none left. Eventually the people realize their mistake—they have thrown off the balance between humans and nature. Over generations, they put the forest back in order so the plants and animals can return.

Not only is this a wonderful story with fantastic illustrations, but it teaches about environmental issues as well as natural and manmade resources. Furthermore, in the upper right corner of each page is a tally. Each tally tells, in pictures and numbers, how many of each animal, plant, and building can found in the forest and on the page. The animals increase by one each page, the plants are always the number of animals squared (2 X 2, 3 X 3, etc.), and the buildings double. Would you like a little math with your story book? The tallies turn every page into a seek-and-find. Those are always fun.

The Water Hole also deals with natural resources. In the wilderness there is a large water hole that all the animals want to drink from. First, one rhino drinks from the water hole. He is soon joined by two tigers, then three toucans. Soon, there are hundreds of animals drinking from the water hole. But as the animals drink from the hole, it becomes smaller and smaller (and the dye cut circle in the center of Graeme Base’s genius illustrations becomes smaller and smaller, too).

I especially love the way Graeme Base shows the animals talking. He writes out the noises they make and then translates them in parentheses!

And finally, the very first Graeme Base book I ever read, The Worst Band in the Universe. This book will always hold a special place in my heart. It is much longer than the other two books I talked about today and it is recommended for kids aged 9-12.

On the planet Blipp, no one is allowed to create new music. They can only play ancient music. But Sprocc longs to create and perform new songs.

One day Sprocc plays a new song and the Musical Inquisitor becomes enraged. Sprocc knows that if he cannot create new music on Blipp then it is not the place for him. He leaves his home for a new planet, one where he can play his own music.

On this planet, called Squaag, he finds a contest that seeks the worst band in the universe. He is told that on Squaag it is better to be the worst band than the best, that here the meanings are reversed. As Sprocc soon discovers, though, it’s all a trap.

You’ll have to read the book yourself, though. I don’t want to ruin all the twists of this clever rhyming story. The wacky and aliens and their foreign instruments make the illustrations this book perfectly suited to older children.

There are many more great books by Graeme Base. Among his most beloved are Animalia and Eleventh Hour. Check out any of his books and you will certainly be delighted.

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