Friday, May 22, 2015

Thinking in Very Small, Detailed Pictures

Toward the end of our first meeting with a developmental pediatrician the doctor observed Mikey, not quite four years old, laying on the floor an examining the mechanical properties of one of her toys. He was not playing with it as it was meant to be played with: he was not driving the little truck around in pretend play. She asked me if that up-close examination was typical to which I replied with a laugh, "yes!"

Like most children, my son loves to explore the world. He observes it, plays in it, tests the limits of it. And it is his way-too-up-close way of looking at things that has provided him with some powerful insights. So I wouldn't change this particular "symptom" of autism for the world. It has provided us with fodder for some pretty awesome conversations. (I'll save those conversations for another day.)

The reason I'm writing this post is because of what Mikey's up-close view on the world has taught me about picture books. Many picture books are run of the mill variety. Stories range from mediocre to inspiring. Illustrations are sometimes extraordinarily artistic. Other times the pictures are not as impressive but they are equally valuable for telling the story. Then there are handfuls of picture books that have photographs so amazing, like The Secret Life of a Snowflake or Raindrops Roll, or drawings so detailed, like Busy Builders and An Earthworm's Life, that they warrant special attention from me, for you.

New technology in photography affords us these remarkable works. In The Secret Life of a Snowflake , the artist/author is a physicist studying snowflakes and crystals. In pursuit of science, he employed some really interesting methods for capturing data, i.e. taking pictures of snowflakes. The book includes descriptions of these wintery crystals but for me the breath-taking images are enough to capture and hold my attention.
Snowflake Art
 Raindrops Roll is another demonstration of how engineering has aided new art. Cameras that can take pictures of the micro view of dew drops and raindrops are now nearly commonplace. In this book, the artist/author provides simple prose to help describe the photographs of water drops and water droplets in nature.

We found An Earthworm's Life at the library just in time for gardening season. The illustrations provide up-close views of earthworms...including a picture of one eating! I have never had the opportunity to actually watch an earthworm eat and this media, this tool to aid learning, this wonderful book showed me what I would otherwise not have seen.

Busy Builders is similar to An Earthworm's Life in that the illustrations provide an up-close view of each insect. In fact, each insect is introduced as an illustration that spreads the body over a two page spread! Readers can see each bod part in detail and marvel at the anatomy of these tiny creatures.

All four of these books offer pretty cool images of our world for you to enjoy with your children. They let you see things you would not necessarily see in every day life. The artists use their favorite, sometimes innovative, technology and their unique perspective to share a view of the micro-sized life that surrounds us. And in reading these books, it is a pleasure to think about how engineering is interwoven in art and in our lives.

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