Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2014)
Imaginative illustrations and spare words present deep themes in this picture book. Norman Qwerty has ideas that are "far from ordinary." Afraid people will think them strange, he hides his ideas under his hat and feels completely alone. But when he creates a contraption that brings ideas to life, Mr. Qwerty realizes that he is not alone after all--everyone has ideas. As others use the contraption to manifest and share their ideas, they create a community that both validates and welcomes the creative diversity. (An opportunity is lost to add another layer to the diversity theme by visually portraying more diverse skin shades within the characters; only one looks nonwhite.) Strambini's detailed black-and-white pencil illustrations are filled with Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that resemble fantastical notebook doodles and are saved from monochromatic overwhelm by judiciously placed spots of color. A red-orange cravat identifies Mr. Qwerty, and the cloud-studded sky-blue scarf drifting through the story draws symbolic attention to the necessity of letting imaginations soar. Visual symbolism abounds, and astute readers, noticing something unusual on the title page, will know to pay close attention going forward. The book's theme is presented subtly; this is a story that rewards multiple readings with multiple layers of understanding. A picture book that celebrates creativity and imagination...and the courage to share them. (Picture book. 4-8)

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