A couple of days ago, one of my colleagues came to me with a book and a smile and said “I’ll bet you hated this book.” I literally took a step back in surprise. It was one of my top choices – a book I had found visually powerful. She found the pictures cartoony. I looked at the visual environment the artist had created. She saw where the artist had failed in proportion. I dismissed this aspect as of little concern given the strength of the other elements. That’s when she got really frustrated and “But you said…” and quoted my words about a book she had loved which left me lukewarm. Now it was my turn to be really shocked. And humbled.
One of the enlightening things she said to me was “So you had a strong emotional response to this book the way I did with the other one.” It gave me several things to think about.
1. Was my positive response to one book an emotional response? Really? I truly thought it was the visual experience that swayed me. I’m going to go back and revisit this.
2.Could it be that it was an emotional response that made me like, but not LOVE the other book. I liked it, I just didn’t think it was worthy of a Caldecott Medal.
3. I have noticed that many of us seem to be swayed by our ties to the content. I notice that books with dogs in them elicit strong positive responses to those who have dogs even when they are not particularly well done. It is as if their hearts are filling in the details the illustrator left out. Not a dog owner myself, I find it easier to separate the successful dog illustrations from the mediocre. Where my own failing lies will be harder for me to discover.
4. It is clear to me that I need to do further reading and study to help inform my reactions to what I am seeing. I have learned a great deal from this process, but I still have much to learn.
5. How exciting it is to have more to learn! This process of being reading, forming opinions, sharing them, revising them and coming to a new understanding is something I find endlessly interesting. To have developed this group of people who will do this with me is a blessing.