I don’t always get a chance to look closely at board books, but I’m always on the hunt for titles that I think are worth celebrating and sharing. And I have a new favorite: Whose Tools? by Toni Buzzeo and Jim Datz. Below is a write-up I did for a Mock Caldecott in which I’m participating:
In this board book which poses questions directly to readers, page borders offer visual hints to the answers; for example, bricks surround the question, “Whose tools are those?” on a spread featuring a mason’s tools. Borders also offer balance of color by matching the background fill of each recto page. Datz’s cartoony style humanizes the anthropomorphized tools and makes the presentation of information cheery and accessible for children. Horizontal signs with questions on them direct readers to each gatefold; when opened, another horizontal sign revealing each answer is exposed (pointing in the opposite direction). These inward facing signs mirror each other and draw readers’ eyes to the person demonstrating the practical use for the tools in the center image. This consistency (in which a speaking worker is featured in the middle page and their colleagues and labels are featured to the right) allows readers to predict where different types of information will be located on each spread. Dotted white lines connect vocabulary words (featured on rectangular labels) to each tool, creating a blueprint-like effect, which ties fittingly into the construction concept. Textures (for instance, spongy marks on green grass and dark to light color gradients on the silver tools) add depth and make central images stand out amongst their settings. By showing a variety of tools being used and a diverse cast of characters using them, an inclusive theme is communicated: building is for everyone. When children are shown using blocks inside a completed house on the final spread, this theme is enriched and expanded by representing the collaboration required for a finished product.
I don’t buy many board books for the library, but this one (for reasons listed above as well as the fact that construction is part of our curriculum) will be right at home with other books in our collection, including Dreaming Up and Building Our House. I can’t wait to take a look at Whose Truck? too!