Author: Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Josée Masse
Publisher: New York: Dutton (Penguin Group), 2010.
Genre: Picture book, poetry/fairy tales
Audience Age: 5 to 8 years
Themes/topics: Poetry, fairy tales
it’s true –
the only view?
If you believe that,
Synopsis: This book is, plainly put, fascinating. It is a fairytale book with a difference. (Not a fractured fairytale book.) Each double-page spread features a dual illustration on one page, each side flowing into the other, showing a different side of the story. (The cover illustration is repeated — upside down — for the first poem, which is quoted above.) The facing page is the text page. One half of the page is white, the other half is pale yellow. On one half is printed a poem, meant to be read down the page (as in the example above.) On the other half, you find the same words, only in reverse, line by line. To get the idea, without me quoting too much of the text, read the poem above in reverse, line by line.
The Cinderella poem looks at the story from Cinderella’s point of view, but read in reverse, it gives the stepsisters’ point of view. The reverse of the Sleeping Beauty poem gives the Prince’s side, and so on.
It gives fresh perspectives on the stories, while at the same time the reader marvels at the way the poems are constructed — it would not be easy to write something that makes as much sense backwards as forwards, while giving a different and intriguing perspective on the same story. It is no surprise to learn that this book is included in several publications’ “Best Children’s Books of the Year” listings, as well as being named an ALA Notable Book.
Activities/Resources: This book could lead to a discussion of palindromes, which have some similarities to the technique used for the book. Palindromes (words or sentences which read the same forward and back, such as the familiar “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama”) are fascinating for kids and adults alike. Kids could maybe start with word or short sentence palindromes, then try for a poem-reverso such as Singer has written. Fortunately, the poems are not word for word reversals, but rather line for line.
The publisher, Penguin, has a grade 3-4 Core Curriculum lesson plan on its website.
On TeachingBooks.net, they have compiled a listing of online resources for this book.
Availability: Readily available in hardcover, online or check with your local independent bookseller.
Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”