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First the Egg (Caldecott Honor Book and Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book (Awards)) Hardcover – September 4, 2007
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Beginning with the die cut on the cover, which completes the title and hides a secret underneath, this delivers a string of delightful surprises as Seeger crisply explores the stages of development in the natural world and, then, how a story grows. Thickly textured backgrounds provide visual energy for minimalist images that cleverly incorporate additional die cuts. “First the EGG,” reads the text on the opening spread, which pictures the egg through an appropriately shaped hole. When children flip the page, they’ll find a fuzzy chick and its adult counterpart—“then the CHICKEN.” So it goes through the life stages of frog, flower, and butterfly. Suddenly, Seeger turns away from nature. “First the WORD,” she writes, “then the STORY.” “First the PAINT . . . then the PICTURE,” accompanied by a painting that pulls the book together, showing chicken, flower, frog, and butterfly enjoying a beautiful day together. A funny finale sets up the book’s beginning. Pages are sturdy enough to support poking fingers and repeated viewings, both of which are guaranteed. Preschool-Kindergarten. --Stephanie Zvirin
“In another nimble page-turner, Seeger (Black? White! Day? Night!) toys with die-cuts and strategically paired words. She introduces a chicken-or-egg dilemma on her book's cover, picturing a plump white egg in a golden-brown nest. Remove the die-cut dust jacket, and a hen appears on the glossy inner cover. The eggshell, thickly brushed in bluish-white and cream, also serves as the chicken's feathers. This "first/then" pattern is repeated ("First the egg/ then the chicken./ First the tadpole/ then the frog"), with a die-cut on every other page. By flipping a page, readers see the cutout in two contexts. For instance, when an ovoid shape is superimposed on a white ground, it's an egg; on a yolk-yellow ground, it's the body of a baby chick. Seeger lines up the recto and verso of every sheet, maintaining a casual mood with generous swabs of grassy greens, sky blues and oxide yellows on canvas. Given the exuberant imagery, the occasional cutout (like the fingernail-size seed of a blowsy peony-pink flower) looks none too impressive. But if minuscule die-cuts seem barely worth the trouble, they do imply the potential in humble sources. Seeger's clever conclusion brings all the elements together in an outdoor scene that returns readers to the opening: "First the paint/ then the picture… / First the chicken/ then the egg!" Ages 2-6. (Sept.)” ―Publishers Weekly
“A deceptively simple, decidedly playful sequence of statements invites readers to ponder, what comes first: the chicken or the egg? Carefully choreographed page turns and die-cuts focus on the process of change and becoming, so "First" sits alone on a yellow background, facing "the EGG"--an egg-shaped die-cut revealing a white egg against an orange-and-brown background. Turn the page, and "then" appears, the egg-shaped die-cut now forming the yellow body of a chick emerging from the shell, facing "the CHICKEN"--the white hen whose body gave color to the previous spread's egg. Tadpole and frog, seed and flower, caterpillar and butterfly all receive the same treatment, then word and story, paint and picture bring all the disparate elements together, nature being the catalyst for art. Seeger's vibrant, textured oil-on-canvas illustrations contain a wealth of subtlety, allowing the die-cuts to reveal cunning surprises with each turn of the page. Children and adults alike will delight in flipping the sturdy pages back and forth to recreate the transformations over and over again. Another perfectly pitched triumph from an emerging master of the concept book. (Picture book. 2-6)” ―Kirkus Reviews Starred Review
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Just a heads up: Don't expect it to answer the timeless question: "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?!"