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The Red Book (Caldecott Honor Book) Hardcover – September 27, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Kindergarten-Grade 6–This perfectly eloquent wordless book tells the complex story of a reader who gets lost, literally, in a little book that has the magic to move her to another place. On her winter-gray walk to school, a young girl spies a book's red cover sticking out of a snowdrift and picks it up. During class, she opens her treasure and finds a series of square illustrations showing a map, then an island, then a beach, and finally a boy. He finds a red book buried in the sand, picks it up, opens it, and sees a sequence of city scenes that eventually zoom in on the girl. As the youngsters view one another through the pages of their respective volumes, they are at first surprised and then break into smiles. After school, the girl buys bunches of helium balloons and floats off into the sky, accidentally dropping her book along the way. It lands on the street below and through its pages readers see the girl reach her destination and greet her new friend, and it isn't long before another child picks up that magical red book. Done in watercolor, gouache, and ink, the simple, streamlined pictures are rife with invitations to peek inside, to investigate further, and–like a hall of mirrors–reflect, refract, repeat, and reveal. Lehman's story captures the magical possibility that exists every time readers open a book–if they allow it: they can leave the "real world" behind and, like the heroine, be transported by the helium of their imaginations.–Kathy Krasniewicz, Perrot Library, Old Greenwich, CT
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From Booklist

PreS-Gr. 2. In this wordless mind trip for tots, Lehman develops a satisfying fantasy in a series of panels framed with thick white borders. The effect is of peering through portals, an experience shared by the characters as they independently stumble across enchanted red books that provide them with a videophone-like connection. Though wordless picture books often seem to be the province of fine artists indulging in high-concept braggadocio (as in Istvan Banyai's 1995 Zoom), Lehman's effort ensures child appeal with an unaffected drawing style and a simple, easy-to-follow story line about a friendship forged between a city girl and a faraway island boy. The message about the transporting power of story will moisten the eyes of many adult readers, but children will most appreciate the thought-provoking visuals, in which characters' actions influence the course of their own storybook narratives--likewise affecting the larger "red book," cleverly packaged to mimic the shape and color of its fictional counterpart. Ideal for fueling creative-writing exercises. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Series: Caldecott Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618428585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618428588
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Lehman has illustrated many books for children. Born in Chicago, Barbara attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she earned a BFA in communication design. A full-time illustrator, Barbara says, "Books and art have always held the strongest attraction for me. I have always felt drawn to commercial art' because of its ability to reach many people. I like the idea of being part of the media in a meaningful and thoughtful way, especially with children as the audience." She now lives in Philmont, New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's official. The results are in. The year 2004 can now officially be declared the "Best Year of Wordless Picture Books" on record. This little appreciated genre of fiction has rarely ever been given its due. Yet now we can enjoy such marvelous stories as "The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard" by Gregory Rogers and "Home" by Jeannie Baker. And then, to top it all off, is the frosting on the cake. "The Red Book" by Barbara Lehman, which stretches the boundaries of picture books everywhere and spices up its story with a distinctly post-modern edge. Some author/illustrators might find it exceedingly difficult to write a picture book, within a book, within a book, without adding so much as a gasp or sigh to dot the text. Not Lehman. The result is this marvelous Caldecott Honor winner that deserves your full undivided attention.

The story is a misleadingly simple one. A girl walking through a gray winter cityscape finds the corner of a bright red book peeking out of a snowbank by the sidewalk. She rescues the item and takes it with him to school. A quick perusal of it shows that it is a story about a warm sunny island, where a boy walking along the sand also finds a red book, this time peeking out of a sandbank. As the boy on the beach reads it he sees that is a story about a city... in which a girl in her classroom is reading about him. The two kids realize what is happening and are intrigued. So what is the natural solution to this problem? The city girl leaves school for the day and buys as many colorful balloons as she can from a local street vendor. The balloons carry her up... up... up above the industrial uniformity below, causing her to accidentally drop the book. It lands on a sidewalk where we see the island boy sitting on the sand waiting.
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Format: Hardcover
This book-within-a-book has the power of Shakespeare's fantasy sequences, the mischief of Twain, and the clever trickery of Lewis Carroll. "The Red Book" is open to multiple interpretations, even by the same reader! It's all beguiling illustrations, but they're drawn so seamlessly that they suggest the magical story about two children drawn increasingly closer to each other. I say "suggest" because this is a highly interactive book: Your experiences and those of your child will inform the shape and tone of Lehman's deft presentation.

The Plot and the Parallels:
A big city schoolgirl uncovers a red book almost hidden by the snow. As she reads the book she finds a map of an island, and the book's pictures get progressively closer to the island. Finally, the girl turns to a page in which she sees a boy on the beach of this island; the boy is holding a red book which leads him closer and closer to a picture of the big city schoolgirl in her apartment. They apparently have found the same red book, or two red books with the same storyline but different points of view. This red book, as it is read, leads each child to pictures of the other child reading the book! In one particularly astonishing illustration, we see the girl looking out her window with wonder, while her open book reveals the boy (with a similar expression) with his open book showing the picture of the same girl we see looking out of her window! Film buffs may associate this dualism with "Strangers on a Train," or "Blow-Up," whereas literature has parallels (pun intended) in "Lolita" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." While these works have an association with evil or moral ambiguity, "The Red Book" reassuringly shows that when the girl and boy see each other they smile; they're definitely glad to see each other.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book that you find yourself thinking about long after you have returned it to the shelf. I "read" it a few weeks ago for the first time (there are no words, so I guess I just took a picture walk, as they say), and I still have very vivid memories of the story. The pictures are great, and the implied plot is engaging.

The best thing, though, is all of the possible interpretations, and all of the questions. Does the book in your hand interact with the red book held by the girl and the boy? Or is it the same book? Where does the book go? Does the boy live on the island? Are they friends now?

This would be a fun way to get kids to look for meaning without getting hung up on words.

I highly recommend it for anyone, at any level. It is exciting and innovative.
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Format: Hardcover
Not only is this book beautifully illustrated and easy to understand, it really allows parents to involve little ones in the story. Although the story is straightforward, the absence of written words allows one to alter the storyline in an infinite number of ways. Little ones may make up their own stories, as well.

Perhaps the best aspect of this book is the fact that the cover is red. This allows the child to believe that they have found the red book! In our household, the end of the story is that the red book found its way to the bookstore, where Mommy and Daddy picked it up. Now, our little one has new friends who are probably reading about him right now, too!

As an aside, I wonder whether this book has reminded anyone else of the "Take On Me" video...
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