Illiteracy is an issue that is prevalent all over the world as well as the corner of the world we live in: the state of Tennessee. Many, many children do not know how to read, and this wonderful story emphasizes the importance of literacy with a non-pedantic sense of humor driven by a charming protagonist.
Seymour Fleishman’s pencil-drawn illustrations are detailed and sharp. A unique aspect of the book is that every other page alternates from black and white to color. This interesting layout prodded me to keep turning the pages, as the old man comes to life in his Amelia Bedelia– type adventures.
Children who may feel unsure or embarrassed by their reading level will laugh as the old man picks out wax paper instead of spaghetti from the supermarket, and a can of coffee instead of spaghetti sauce. As the man realizes the importance of being able to read, he has a revelation that he should take the initiative to learn. He is a toymaker and children write letters to him, and he realizes that he wants to be able to read the letters.
“Then he learned to read the words for everything in the big store. And then he learned to read the words for everything in the world.”
Black gently yet consciously addresses a very important issue that resonates powerfully through Fleishman’s illustrations. The story expresses to children that yes, even adults may not be able to read, but one can ALWAYS learn.
I will bring this book to my next hospital visit because it is cute, funny and well-illustrated, and I think it will reverberate with children as well as emphasize the importance of literacy and show that yes- books are fun and so is reading!
Recommended ages: The book should be read aloud to children who are not much younger than 7 or so, because children any younger will not be able to relate as well if they are not learning to read yet. If they are learning, however, this story is great for a read-aloud-together experience!
Reviewed by Katherine Klockenkemper