Mirror Hardcover – Nov 9 2010
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About the Author
Jeannie Baker is the author and illustrator of a number of children’s picture books, including the award-winning Where the Forest Meets the Sea. Born in England, she now lives in Australia.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Here's what we liked about it: The way the two stories, a life in Australia and a life in Morocco are presented, side-by-side with a similar story line, was ingenious. I love that the Moroccan story works right-to-left, just as it would were it written in Arabic, and the Australian story works left-to-right as in English. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story told through the pictures is an interesting one, to be sure.
Now my reservations: For my child, who is 4, the story line was a bit difficult to follow. It could have been the difficulty of following 2 story lines at once (he was similarly confused by Black and White, which has 4 concurrent story lines), or just the foreigness of the Moroccan story, or maybe the real issue was me and my desire for him to see the story as the author intended. At any rate, I found myself telling him the story to a greater extent than I normally do with wordless picture books. And maybe it is for that reason that he seemed far less interested in this book than he has been in his favorite wordless picture books. If you are using the book as a tool to help develop a child's storytelling skills, this may not be the best one out there. But as a way to learn a bit about the similarities and differences between two very different cultures, it is terrific!
ETA: A quick update - I've since read this book with older brother, who is almost 7. He was just the perfect age for it! He was able to follow the two stories simultaneously, and compare the pictures on each side of the page. He was able to catch important details, like a carpet in the Australian house that appears to be like the one the Morroccan mother weaves. He was able to make the connection between the pictures of the Morroccan family drawing water from their well, milking their cow and gathering eggs and the subsequent pictures of the family eating those things for breakfast. He absolutely loved the book.
Mirror uses contrasting side-by-side visual images to highlight differences in economic development and social norms in an Australian city and a remote Moroccan village. Making the book unique is the use of Arabic as well as English to communicate the narrative, as well as a stunning display of collages made with materials such as sand, clay, fabric, and tin. This sophisticated art work stands on its own to communicate an important lesson about differences and commonalities across countries.
Anyway, the concept and the work involved are quite amazing. The book shows a day in the life of each of two families, one from Australia and one from Morocco. The Australian family's story is told on the left side of the book and is read from left to right (as in standard English), while the Moroccan family's story is told on the right side of the book and is read from right to left (as in standard Arabic). The only words are on the front covers which gives a brief explanation of the story (the left side in English, the right side in Arabic), and an explanation at the end of the author's process. The story itself consists entirely of pictures.
Both stories open with pictures of night-time and early morning in their respective places. Both stories proceed through the day as father and son journey together into "town" to take care of business and then return home to the family setting in the evening. Both sides show details of daily living such as meals, chores and family life.
The Australian father and son are shown driving into a crowded metropolitan area to go to a hardware store to fix their fireplace. They then stop at a "magic carpet" store and pick out a carpet. In the evening, they roll out their new carpet in front of the fireplace and the boy draws a picture of a flying carpet in the desert. The Moroccan father and son venture by donkey through a barren land to a market area carrying a carpet which the mother of the family has woven, along with other goods to sell in the market. After selling their goods, they then buy a computer, which they bring home and hook up. The family then goes on the Internet to learn about Australia. Dramatically different lives thousands of miles apart nonetheless touch each other and share similarities - a perfect antidote to the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric we've heard so much of lately.
The illustrations are also amazing. Jeannie Baker, who is both author and illustrator, started by drawing each scene and composition, then began filling in the drawing with natural and artificial materials ranging from sand and vegetation to fabrics and paints to create a collage, which was then photographed to create the book. I can't imagine how many hours that must have taken, repeated dozens of times for each page in the book. The results were worth it, however. The pictures reflect a perfect blend of realism and animated fantasy.
I don't recommend this book for children as young as the publishers indicate, but I do recommend it. 4.5 stars.
I was quite disappointed with this book mainly because it was quite awkward to read aloud. Having to hold both side of the book open while reading it to children is quite cumbersome and while I understand what was going on, quite often I had to explain it to the children as they looked at it. Maybe if it was just an individual reading it for themselves that would not be a problem but for a teacher....
I am sure that many people liked the illustrations the way they were done with fabric and such but to me they weren't that great.
All in all, not recommended for a classroom setting.