Wednesday, July 25, 2007

M. T. Anderson Month, Part I

The Adbooks listserv is discussing M.T. Anderson this month, which is how I came to discover his lovely picture book, Me, All Alone, at the End of the World (illustrated by Kevin Hawkes). Me, All Alone is beautiful looking and elegant sounding, but probably falls into that category that I think of as picture books for adults.

On a superficial level, there's a lot of text in this picture book, and some lengthy sentences. "I liked to lie cozy near the brass-bellied stove, and hear the rain and the thunder fall, and the chuckling beasts with long tails or five legs or big kissing mouths squirm over the edge to go snapping at lightning." That's quite a mouthful for a preschooler or early reader, who might also want to know what "chuckling beasts?" Even a short sentence like "I ate hardtack and gristle" includes some vocabulary that the average kid probably isn't familiar with.

On a less superficial level, while I liked the book very much, I'm an adult that didn't quite get it. I thought it was kind of an anti-development story about an idyllic spot that became a tourist attraction. Sort of like Niagara Falls. It was only through the listserv discussion and after reading reviews that I realized that a more accurate reading relates to the attractions of solitude versus the attractions of, say, the developed Niagara Falls.

I liked that, once I got it. While I have no problem accepting that there are probably grade schoolers out there who would get this book faster than I did, I'd still suggest reading it with children to help them out.

Or just read it yourself.

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

Last year in a conversation at the Foundation for Children's Books, Mr. Anderson opined that Me, All Alone,... might have deserved to be expanded into a short novel. It certainly does push the limits of word count and syntax for a picture book. On the other hand, it's about mood and moment, not action and plot.