My one-year-old son’s latest favorite read is Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. I came home from ALA Midwinter to a sick baby and a husband who had already read Good Night, Gorilla “hundreds of times.” As I stayed home and spent the past week with my son and read (and re-read) Good Night, Gorilla, I thought about the initial meeting I had with the 2016 Caldecott Committee, our comments about the committee manual and preparing for a year of reading (and re-reading) picture books.
Slow Down-The more I read the same book over and over again, the more I slowed down and really took in the story. I knew the text so I could look at the pictures and see how the two really combined.
Pay Attention to Detail-After reading Good Night, Gorilla many, many times, I started to notice details I hadn’t seen before. I looked at the pictures on the wall of the Zookeeper’s house that showed Mrs. Zookeeper holding a baby gorilla. I noticed how each animal had toys in their cage and that elephant had a nod to Babar. I followed the mouse’s story just as much as I followed gorilla’s. I saw the expressions in the animals faces.
Appreciate the Story & Art Working Together-Along with the various details, I really looked at how the story and the art work together. I saw the number of neighbors that appear in the window increase from one to three, adding a layer of humor to the story that maybe the animals following the Zookeeper home each night was a regular ritual that the whole neighborhood thought was pretty funny. My son finds the two page spread of black with just Mrs. Zookeeper’s eyes wide open (which I read with a corresponding “too many good nights!”) absolutely hilarious and made me think about how the art and text compliment each other.
The Caldecott Manual comes with a page of suggested reading and our committee has suggested other articles and books we felt would be good to look at to help prepare for our upcoming year. But I also found this past week that reading Good Night, Gorilla over and over again with my son has also made me stop and think about my upcoming committee year and in some ways, helped me prepare for my year of evaluating illustrations and picture books.
Take some time and re-read some picture books and see if you learn to slow down, pay attention to detail, and appreciate the story and art working together.