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Follow the Line
Format: HardcoverChange
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Is it bad that the first thing I thought when I picked up this title was, "Oh! An Etch-a-Sketch book". I can be forgiven for this. After all, when a book's gimmick is identical to that of a beloved childhood toy, you're automatically going to associate the two together. And, I might add, to the book's advantage. If everyone that picks up, "Follow the Line" gets the same warm fuzzy feeling they get when they think of playing with their Etch-a-Sketches, it'll be justly deserved. This is a rather amusing little title with an equally amusing premise that's bound to be read over and over again by a certain segment of the child population.

The book actually begins with its cover. Starting with a line that begins at the bottom of the "F" in the title, "Follow The Line", a single white stripe spells out all the letters against a deep black background and then goes off the side of the cover. The line moves across the bookflap, onto the endpapers, around the publication information on the title page, and with a flip we suddenly find ourselves in a city. Buildings, windows, steps, etc. are created by a single sinuous line alongside a brightly colored setting. As we follow the streak we encounter questions about the number of flowers or TV antennas around. When the line escapes off the page, we too escape and find ourselves now creating faces and people and babies and dogs. The book continues in this manner throughout. The line never breaks or cheats and following it means twisting, turning, plummeting, and soaring according to the illustrator's whims. Finally, at the end, the line leaps across the endpapers, onto the bookflap, and to the words, "The End", situated on the book's back cover. Simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.

Laura Ljungkvist may well fall into the category of Author/Illustrators Who Are Too Cool By Half. First of all, check out Ms. Ljungkvist's website for this book at followtheline dot com. She's a design maven who high-tailed it from Sweden to Brooklyn (currently the hippest borough) and ended up working (according to her bookflap), "in fields ranging from fashion to finance". Sheesh! And now she wants to do picture books. Who'd have thunk it? I've always had a kind of touch and go relationship with picture books that dwell in the realm of good design. Either they go absolutely crazy like, "The Graphic Alphabet" by David Pelletier did (it's perhaps THE most ridiculous "children's" book ever constructed with good design in mind) or they come across as simply sublime, as in David Carter's, "One Red Dot". Ljungkvist, I'm happy to say, falls squarely in the "sublime" category. The illustrations in this book are crisp and clear with fabulous colors against a kind of retro-fifties style. At the same time, Ljungkvist has done what Pelletier never deigned to do. She's made each and every page interesting for kids. Sure, they could just follow the line with their finger, but that's not the only amusing aspect to this title. On each page the author has slipped in questions like, "How many fences are there?" or "How many babies are awake?". It's a line game, sure, but it's a counting game and an I spy game as well. Clever girl.

One critic of the book pointed out that the images in this title aren't ALL created by the line. When you look at the forest scene with its skull-like mushrooms (it took me a while to figure out what they exactly were) there are plenty of stumps and trees and even a pond with waterlilies that aren't part of the line itself. Imagine how dull the book might have been if EVERYTHING was made up by the line, though. It might be an interesting exercise, but I applaud Ljungkvist's ability to incorporate simple forms and figures alongside the wacked-out nuttiness of her over-compesating line.

In a funny way, the book this reminded me the most of was that old crazy classic by Ann Jonas, "Round Trip". Of course, the conceit of that book was less follow-the-line as it was read-the-book-upside-down-and-rightside-up. In any case, these two picture books would pair beautifully together. If you have a kid who likes one, they'll probably like the other as well. You might even want to go a little crazy and pair the book with Norton Juster's deeply amusing, "The Dot and the Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics". Only if you're feeling quirky, mind you. As it stands, "Follow the Line", is the perfect gift to give to a child so as to appear intelligent to the child's parents while still handing the kid something they might actually enjoy. A fun and enticing item.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Laura Ljungkvist is a wonderful author/illustrator, and she has outdone herself with her third book, Follow the Line. I highly recommend that all parents include this book in their home libraries. I always buy books for children's occasions, and this is the book I keep on hand to give any child because it appeals to all. The narrative follows in the tradition of Margaret Wise Brown's classics. The words are simple and elicit conversation between child and reader. The pictures are graphic, simple and bright, and they captivate even the youngest children. Older children enjoy "following the line". With imaginative and innovative illustration, this book is a technical feat. Follow the Line will introduce early readers to the concept of following the stories left to right, through the pages, to the end. Children will gain pre-reading skills and not even be aware of it. Buy this book, enjoy this book, and give this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2007
I am a graphic designer and was blown away with ideas and an illustrations in this beautifuly imagined and designed book. Each spread contains riddles to get your child excercise and develop observing and counting skills. A gem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2006
WOW! This is a book that will inspire and intrigue students to "follow the line." It's not just any line; it is a line that has a life of its own. After reading the book aloud to my students, it has not been back on the shelf! The children are amazed that it is one very complex line throughout the book that includes people and objects and animals. The added questions are like "I Spy." Older students in grade 4 are practicing their "cursive" with one line. Others wrote a book about biomes and illustrated it with just one line! There are any number of activities you can follow up with after reading this book. My students absolutely love it. Laura Ljungkvist is a gifted illustrator and a talent to watch. This book is unique and a real treat!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2006
I agree completely with the Kirkus and SLJ reviews above. This is a special book. It engages you in several ways at once, with words and pictures and questions and activities. It'll be read again and again.

I also like it because each page could hang in in the Museum of Modern Art, and probably will one day.

How many gold stars are there? Five!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2010
I love the concept of this book (a single line travels through all the pages from a city through the ocean to the woods to a country house) but just am not wowed with the execution. There's too much detail on each page for my 2 year old son to understand that it's a single line (or for me to be able to follow it with my finger to show him), and the color schemes are a little odd (particularly the stop lights which are blue and pink). Might be better for a somewhat older child, or really just appreciated by parents. But, I give it 4 stars because the illustrations are really cute, and my son loves counting the tiny fire hydrants, looking for the snails, and finding the babies that aren't asleep at the end of the story!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Seemingly effortless in its concept and visuals; exceptionally brilliant in the whole. Readers are irresistibly compelled not only to follow but to count, play, stop, observe, start/stop, and marvel in Laura Ljungkvist's flowing, shifting, and wonderfully incessant line. Impossible to refrain from page turning, even though each spread is a visual feast you could gorge on all day. Ljungkvist's actual line quality is so tactile and raw but with no shortage of grace and movement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2010
We love this book. It's great to follow the line through different scenes and a new way to find" adventure" through a book. The illustrations are wonderful and it's nice to find a book as innovative as this one.
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on January 8, 2015
Fun to follow the line for my 5yr old and fun to find the object for my 2yr old.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2010
i am a designer/illustrator so maybe i'm biased.
But my 1 year old loves to look at all the drawings inside, and she sits still long enough to get through it.
A short read for toddler, then more detailed questions about counting the objects, for older children.
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