When my book review pile reaches critical mass, I start seeing themes among the books. Lately I’ve noticed lots of books of opposites peeking out at me. With Ozzie about to enter Pre-K, he’s at just the right age for some of these. (Of course, as a 3-year-old, he’s already starting to master opposites, as in doing the opposite of what I say.)
Opposites by Xavier Deneux has a lovely form factor. It’s a board book that uses positive and negative space in an interesting way, with durable cutouts on one page that interlock with the same cut out shape on the next page. In addition to some usual opposite pairs, like full/empty and inside/outside, there are some cute surprises, too, like caged/free that shows a lion caged and then set free. This is a wonderfully tactile book that’s great for toddlers. (See also Xavier Deneux’s Colors.)
What’s Up, Bear? is a great book of opposites for city kids. Sophie is excited to go to big and beautiful New York City, but Bear thinks it’s big and scary. Sophie likes to go fast in taxis, but Bear likes to go slow. The tall buildings make bear feel short. The subways stop. The subways go. When Sophie discovers fancy bears in the shop window, Bear feels very plain. Bear gets lost, but it wouldn’t be an ending to the opposite story unless Bear was found. See? Cities are quite friendly.
With Tell Me About Colors, Shapes, and Opposites, you can imagine a kid crawling up in your lap with this book, imploring you to do what the title suggests. Each spread explores different concepts with delightful retro illustrations by Aurélie Guillerey. This book isn’t so much a read aloud, as you can really pop it open to any page and start having conversations with your kid about what the see and observe. For instance, a boy and girl come running into a room as though looking for something. The text reads “On the left. In the middle. On the right.” The text is positioned on the page on the left, in the middle, and on the right, but what are they looking for? The book also tackles tricky topics like time, like before/during/after, showing the boy and girl building a sand castle. I love that every page seems to suggests an open-ended question of invitation to have a conversation with your little reader.
Odd Duck is one of my favorite picture books of late, written by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Sara Varon (who game us the delightful Bake Sale graphic novel, a family favorite). Theodora the duck is super normal, and every day she follows the same super normal routine. She liked quiet and didn’t like change. But then someone moved into the empty house next door. Someone strange. Someone loud. Chad was an odd duck. Theodora decided they would not be friends. Every year Theodora did not fly south with the other ducks, and this year she was shocked to realize that Chad was not flying south, either. But in that winter together, the Theodora realized they were not as opposite as they seemed. In fact, they were both a little odd. This tale about friendship is as charming as they come.