Modern-day tastemakers, unlike their forebears, shower love on comics and graphic novels without a hint of condescension. This is true even of works intended mainly for children, a category that includes — let’s be honest — most of the superhero sagas that dominate pop culture’s most lucrative precincts. I’m not complaining, by the way (I love comics too), just observing. But picture books are another story. Even the genius likes of Beatrix Potter and Maurice Sendak are shunted off to the critical equivalent of the Thanksgiving kids’ table, smiled at but not often engaged with. Yet the best picture books, far from being baby food, display a pictorial sophistication that puts many graphic novels to shame; think of them as visual haiku, an art form of juxtaposition and implication, bright colors notwithstanding. And here are three examples to prove the point — books full of surface delight that also reward close reading. Kids might love them, but I’m guessing all three will resonate even more with grown-ups.
The three picture books reviewed are:
I GOT IT! (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), David Wiesner
Sophie Blackall’s HELLO LIGHTHOUSE (Little, Brown, 48 pp., $18.99; ages 4 to 8)
THEY SAY BLUE (Abrams, 40 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8) by Jillian Timaki