My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t review that many board books. A lot of this is due to the fact that they’re just not really things that come across my radar. Some of this is due to the fact that they’re always fairly well beaten up in any library (and this is a good sign, trust me, because they’re being heavily used) and also because I’ve never seen much space in the books to *allow* me to review them. Picture books, yes, they’re full of space – but board books? They’re complex beasts; texts designed more to engage a child with the *idea* of literacy than literacy itself (which is something, by the way, that I shall be writing about in the future). I find them fascinating but I never really found them reviewable.
(She says, dramatically).
Max’s Wagon is an utter joy. It’s probably the most perfect board book I’ve ever read. I picked up whilst shelving one day and flicked through with vague interest. This vague interest of mine turned to a rapid and intense love. It’s a simple, elegant story. Max is putting things into his wagon. This includes toys and his dog; a mildly perplexed, Gromit-esque hound who obediently jumps in and then helps Max to pick up all the things that fall out of the wagons. Max’s ball gets put into the wagon, it falls out, and gets put back in. Max’s car gets put into the wagon, falls out, and gets put back in. Max’s cookie goes into the wagon, falls out …. and ?
“Dog gets the cookie /
The cookie has gone /
Where is the cookie?”
The last panel; a *very* innocent dog sits on the side of a wagon being carefully studies by Max who is very concerned as to where his cookie has gone. Nothing is explicit, there’s no crumbs on the dogs face but the teddy is looking right at the dog (and so’s Max, his body language is towards the dog) and so our eyeline is automatically drawn to the right hand side of the page. And the dog? Well, he’s sat there with an expression very familiar to anybody who has ever done anything that they shouldn’t have done. It’s adorable. Such a small moment but it’s so vividly drawn and constructed, the dialogue between the understated text and the understated drawing, I could bang on for hours about this panel but I won’t. Suffice to say, it’s beautiful.
That little note of doubt (who ate the cookie? Where’s the cookie gone?) is such a glorious way to end this because it opens the book up to questions and dialogue and conversation. It opens up a reader to the possibility of a conversation going beyond the space of the book and that possibility is something that can be returned to and interrogated as the child grows up. It’s just perfect and I love this book so much for what it gives to the reader. Because it’s everything.