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Horn Book Magazine(Preschool)
Fifty years after the appearance of Margaret Wise Brown's Important Book (illustrated by Leonard Weisgard), a never-before-published companion volume has arrived. Brown's text begins with one: "The important thing / about being One / is that life / has just begun. / You can't quite talk. / You can't quite walk. / You've found your nose / and discovered your toes...." Brown is, as always, conscious of child development: two is a doer, three learns about "being me," four has grown in both size and accomplishments. Chris Raschka explicates the underlying complexity of Brown's simple-seeming statements in illustrations that pay deliberate tribute to her earlier illustrators. His graphic approach to form and composition recalls Weisgard's illustrations for The Noisy Book; his saturated palette echoes the tonal balance of Clement Hurd's Goodnight Moon; his vigorously drawn figures outdo Jean Charlot (A Child's Good Night Book). Most intriguing is Raschka's use of geometrical forms to represent the increasing complexity of the small child's understanding and capabilities. Like translucent, multi-colored blocks and balls-simple toys that become imbued with meaning and purpose in the child's imagination-these shapes interact with the vibrantly sketched figures of the children. One has a basic circle-the sun and moon mentioned in the text, the child still wrapped in the cocoon of babyhood. For two, squares-blocks to stack, steps to the many actions of the busy toddler, which Brown lists in a string of verbs. Three, like one, a circle, but larger now, and formed from three concentric circles: "Me" in the context of a larger world. Again, four elaborates on two: the square is quartered diagonally, the resulting triangles open like doors, and then they reform, like a tangram. And so on. There's a spread that's a grand concatenation of all ages and shapes together; a winding-down backwards count; and then the inevitable conclusion: "But the important thing...is that you are YOU." More on-target developmentally than poetically; but Raschka's illustrations are innovative, intriguing, and brimming with vitality. j.r.l.