CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 5 . . . . October 5, 2012
What Do You Want To Be? begins with a classroom scene in which the teacher asks a student what she would like to be, and the student narrator begins to imagine the different careers she might have, including trapeze artist, nutritionist, scuba diver, writer, and rock star, and finishes both her thoughts and the book by saying that whatever her occupation, she will always be herself and that is good.
The text follows the verse format with the verses listing various occupations and elaborating on what is interesting or attractive about the work. The illustrations feature the narrator in the role of the professional she is thinking of at the moment, with some interesting twists such as jumping through a burning hoop herself, instead of sending the tigers through, when she is imagining herself as an animal trainer.
There is an error in the text, “Fireman sure are brave…,” and I find it to be rather a bumpy read in places, instead of the smoothly-paced experience a picture book should be if the entire text is to be in verse. This may be partly because of the book design which places the text, in blocks, wherever the illustrations are empty of detail. Instead of the text and illustrations working together, they vie for the reader’s attention so that the eye searches, wandering across the page for a moment before discovering the text, and the illustrations do not enhance the impact of the words as they are being read. This is unfortunate because the illustrations contain a lot of humour not included in the text, itself, such as a goldfish climbing out of its bowl to write ‘marine biologist’ on the blackboard in answer to the teacher’s question to the class on what they would like to be, or a pair of skunks using a chemistry set to make perfume. The illustrations, themselves, which are mostly pastel in tone, are rather flat and simple-looking; I could not identify the medium, but the overall look is similar to drawings made using basic graphic tools on a computer, such as Paintbrush for Windows.
Illustrations in picture books are ultimately a matter of taste, but I feel that What Do You Want To Be? could have been much better than it is now, by paying more attention to the potential of the picture book form.
Saeyong Kim is studying for a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia, BC.
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