Barbara Lehman’s book, published by Houghton Mifflin Company takes the reader on a magical journey without saying a single word. This wordless picture book follows a young girl in a city who finds a red book in a snow bank. When the girl opens the book, she sees a young boy on an island. The adventure begins as the girl appears to travel into the book to meet the boy. Lehman leaves the readers wondering what happens next as the story ends with a boy on a bike finding a similar red book. Don’t worry… she published a sequel so you can find out what kind of adventures the read book will take him on!
The thing that amazes me most about The Red Book is the way it pushes the bounds on the definition of “the story.” Each page adds to the story that unfolds using only images. Though the details, such as what city the girl lives in and exactly how the magic of the book works, are left to the reader to decide, there is a clear story to follow and add your own twist and experiences to. I read the story from beginning to end before reading the note the author left the reader on the book jacket. The story that I read was the exact story she describes at the beginning. I did not have to read that to know what the story was about. Lehman was able to convey the full message of her story in images and then provide a brief synopsis that matched it perfectly.
Even without words, or the minute details that words may add to the story, I found a strong theme throughout the story. In a few short pages, and with beautifully crafted and intentional illustrations, Lehman shares with her readers how magical books are. To me, this book is about the worlds that we put ourselves into when we open a book. The worlds that we get to “see” and “experience” from the comfort of our own homes or classrooms. The friends we make with the characters and the suspense of what will happen to them, and to us once we’ve read the last page. Though these messages may not be evident to small children who will experience this book in a very different way, it opens the door to have rich discussions with children – discussions about what it means to read a story and how magical books really are.
To tie it all together, Lehman titles this story The Red Book and makes the cover solid red to match the book in the story. Will you be the next person to find adventure in the red book?
-Anna Lee McLean