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Black and White Paperback – October 24, 2005
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Black and White is an interesting title for a book that aims to prove there's no such thing as black and white. But read on and you will see that irony and playful deception are running themes in this multidimensional, nonlinear picture story, which was awarded the 1991 Caldecott Medal. In it, a normal-looking cow contains a robber literally pointing at one of the plot's various possible outcomes, which remain tentative as long as they are formulated by young readers. Seeing new angles and clues every time they open the book, these readers will probably astound adult onlookers with their excitement and ease at navigating the unknown in a literary medium akin to interactive multimedia. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From Publishers Weekly
At first glance, this is a collection of four unrelated stories, each occupying a quarter of every two-page spread, and each a slight enough tale to seem barely worth a book--a boy on a train, parents in a funny mood, a convict's escape and a late commuter train. The magic of Black and White comes not from each story, however, but from the mysterious interactions between them that creates a fifth story. Several motifs linking the tales are immediately apparent, such as trains--real and toy--and newspapers. A second or third reading reveals suggestions of the title theme: Holstein cows, prison uniform stripes. Eventually, the stories begin to merge into a surrealistic tale spanning several levels of reality, e.g.: Are characters in one story traveling on the toy train in another? Answers are never provided--this is not a mystery or puzzle book. Instead, Black and White challenges the reader to use text and pictures in unexpected ways. Although the novelty will wear off quickly for adults, no other writer for adults or children explores this unusual territory the way Macaulay does. All ages.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Is this four books in one? Or is it one book told from four different perspectives?
Each double-page is divided into quarters, and each quarter tells its own story, but the stories (and indeed, the pages) relate to one another. The more you read it, the more connections you make. This is one of those left-brain/right-brain books that is entertaining for most ages. It works as four picture books for very young children, and it works for the adults who read it to them. Ages five to dead, as my kids say.
Good one to take with us for Thanksgiving dinner - I'll bet grandpa will love it.
Macaulay posts this warning right on the title page: "This book appears to contain a number of stories that do not necessarily occur at the same time. Then again, it may contain only one story. In any event, careful inspection of both words and pictures is recommended."
I'll say this at the beginning: As a children's librarian, I would never read or show this to a class. There is no way to explain this complicated, interconnected book of four stories that run into and out of each other.
Here is how they look. There are four stories on the two adjoining pages with two stories per page. Each story has predominant colors of blue, green, brown, and black and white. Colors and patterns spill and slip from one story to the next, but the thrust of the story is done in black and white. It must be noted that Macaulay is NOT saying that everything is black and white. Oh no! If anything he is saying that everything is NOT black and white, but he uses black and white, both words and pictures, to say it.
What I just wrote in that last sentence gives a sense of the story. It is brilliantly creative! I had a special story time with some gifted students last year, second graders. They had so much fun with this book. I had to get them started on "reading" the pictures (this is a picture book with narrative on each story block), but once they caught on, they rip-roared with the story!!
Remember the admonition to stay in the lines and not think outside the box. David Macaulay failed that class because he both colors outside the lines--literally--and his characters get outside their cartoon boxes and into each other's boxes. The story is one big paean to imagination, creativity, whimsy, flight of fancy, freedom to explore, and freedom to see the Big Picture.
Wow, this is one great book. Every child should own it! I certainly do!
Fascinating and enchanting, the story(ies) will appeal to children, but may be only fully appreciated by adults. Perfect for reading aloud, in both an educational and an enjoyment sense.
There is much, much more to this book than meets the eye.