cover image Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words

Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words

Ruth Roche, trans. from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, illus. by Madalena Matoso. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59270-208-4

A boy named Pedro gradually learns how to read, gaining a new understanding of once-indecipherable images on street signs and buildings. Matoso’s blocky graphics underscore themes of sight and learning on multiple fronts: the palette (vermilion, blue, and pea-soup green) echoes the RGB color model, and the illegible scribbles Pedro sees on milk cartons, buses, and elsewhere slowly shift into recognizable characters after he learns about letters like A and D at school. In so doing, Matoso lets readers share in Pedro’s disorientation, perhaps never more than when Pedro’s father tells him that “through your letters you’re starting to understand more of what you see.” The text of the scene is set against a dizzying backdrop of overlapping red and green stripes; taking a moment to think about what they are seeing (as Pedro often does), readers will realize it’s a close-up of Pedro’s father’s sweater. It’s a smart, thoughtful chronicle of learning in action, and it would pair well with Sergio’s Ruzzier’s recent This Is Not a Picture Book! for discussions about how literacy transforms the unfamiliar into the known. Ages 3–6. (Nov.)