Black and White: Four connected stories, one amazing book.

Black and White

 

Picture Book

Ages 4-8

By David Macaulay

32 pages

Houghton Mifflin Company

Published 1990

1991 Caldecott Medal Winner

 

David Macaulay has published books for varying ages and he’s a master, no matter the subject. In his non-fiction works, such as Pyramid (1975), The New Way Things Work (1998)*, or Building Big (2000), his writing makes very technical subjects approachable, understandable and captivating. He illustrates those works in a highly detailed, realistic style. His first book, Cathedral (1973), was awarded a Caldecott honor. The American Institute of Architects has also given Macaulay a medal for being “an outstanding illustrator and recorder of architectural accomplishments.”

In his picture books, Macaulay’s ease with words lures readers into his stories. He alters his artistic style to accommodate the tone of the story and, regardless of medium or technique, his art is always pleasing and inviting. I have previously reviewed his picture book, Baaa (1985). You can expect to see more of his books reviewed here in the future.

Black and White begins with a warning:

The next spread has four separate panels, each in a different illustration style, each one beginning a different story. Some panels have no words; others have whole blocks of text.

In one story a boy is taking his first solo trip on a train. In another, mostly wordless, story commuters wait on a train platform. There’s a story about some parents exhibiting very odd behavior, and one about some wandering Holstein cows.

Slowly, the different illustration styles begin to meld and overlap, the stories collide, and everything comes together to form quite an amazing book. Though I’ve categorized it for children ages four to eight, I think there’s plenty here to interest older children as well.

Readers can begin by going through each story individually and read through the book four times, or the stories can be read all together, making only one trip through. I have done both, several times, and I recommend doing the same. This book offers a great lesson on perspective, as well as an example of how truth can still be truth even if it’s from an entirely different point of view.

* The New Way Things Work is an updated version of The Way Things Work, originally published in 1988.

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