Review of the Day: Scribble (Part One)
I like "Scribble". No, I don’t think you understand. I reeeeeeally like "Scribble". I like its art and its style and its "message" (or whatever the equivalent term might be) and pretty much everything about it. The only problem with "Scribble" is that it’s not a flashy book. It’s sweet and subtle and as a result it’s probably not going to draw too much attention to itself. With that in mind, I charge each and every one of you to seek it out since no one’s gonna go out and do it for you. The picture book that shatters the reality between what you create and what you are is difficult to pull off. All the more so when it’s as fun, readable, and kid-friendly as "Scribble".
Oh, Emma. Thinking she knows everything. Emma’s one of those girls who goes around drawing princesses all the time. Lucie, on the other hand, prefers to draw kitties. When Emma, in her oh-so-superior way, informs Lucie that her cat looks more like a scribble than a feline, the younger sister retaliates by scribbling all over Emma’s newest princess picture. However, Scribble (the cat Lucie has drawn) grows curious about the sleeping princess, now trapped behind what appears to be a Giant Thicket. With a reluctant Lucie tagging behind, he attempts to free the beauty and save the day. Yet it’s only when the little girl agrees to help and undo the damage she’s done to the princess’s picture that everyone is allowed to live happily ever after.
Visually, the book really does pop. It starts with a kind of cartoony style. Individual panels and speech bubble break up the action with characters occasionally leaping off the page towards the reader. Eventually, as Emma leaves and Lucie’s imagination has a chance to expand, the piece of paper containing Scribble grows to immense proportions, completely obliterating the entire paneled scheme. Emma’s real cat, a small white one who takes to Scribble as recognizable kin, is always easy to spot against the yellow and pink background. Ditto Emma’s white shirt beneath her overalls. The color scheme of the book bounces back and forth between pink and yellow. Emma wears all pink and Lucie all yellow. Yet when Lucie crosses over from her yellow paper to Emma’s pink world, suddenly her overalls take on an unfamiliar rosy hue. On a related note, it’s interesting to watch the dynamic between the two sisters. They’re always shown across the table from one another, one on her pink side and one on her yellow. It’s fun to see how Lucie’s literal leap into her sister’s world helps change her own perspective.
Reading and rereading the book brings something new to the eye every time. Did you catch the moment near the end where Emma’s "sleeping" princess opens here eyes while Emma informs Lucie that kitties and princesses do not wed? Or that once Lucie has fully entered into Emma’s picture, the princess appears to be trapped within a castle made up of different shades of pink on pink? Even Scribble’s kiss on the princess’s cheek is a tiny yellow heart, and the result causes his own cheeks to take on a rose colored hue of their own. Everything has its place in this book, and the repeating colors really tie it all together.
And just apart from all of that, I really appreciate any book where a little girl character can wear yellow cat-bedecked overalls and short hair. Some books would have you believe that all little girls sport dresses and have long lovely locks 24/7. And how awesome is Scribble anyway? It is desperately hard for adults to draw like children. An adult who tries will usually mess up by getting proportions correct or will have lines too suspiciously smooth. Not Freedman. Scribble, as you can see from the cover, is absolutely perfect. Even when he starts moving about, his lines are absolutely remarkable. The oversized head coupled with the small body and wobbly legs. The princess isn’t too shabby either, but it’s really Scribble who steals the show time and time again. Best of all, I bet it wouldn’t be too difficult for child readers to draw "Scribbles" of their own if they were so inspired to do so.
It seems unfair to forget Freedman’s words in the midst of her clever art. Consider her use of dialogue and narrative. When Scribble and Lucie go on their quest, the book’s narration suddenly changes. Where before it was all speech bubbles and panels, now there’s a narrator giving voice to the mute Scribble’s thoughts and desires. Basically, the book becomes a real fairy tale for a little while, using terms like, "drowsy eyes and rosy cheeks." Even when Lucie follows her kitty to the other side, the book says that she goes through, "through acres of one color into another." Acres. That’s lovely.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)
Filed under: Reviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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