Reading nonfiction picture books for the Cybils awards beats my stint at a charity golf tournament by, like, 100 per cent. (It helps to know golf if you are going to be a starter. Minor detail.) Consider volunteering for next year's Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary awards; I've discovered some gems in the process.
A thank-you goes to Lerner Publishing and Millbrook Press, who sent me 3-D ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet, by Bob Raczka. My son took one look at the cover, a photo of Oldenburg and van Bruggen's gigantic "Spoonbridge and Cherry," and asked, "Where is that? I want to go there and see that!" Me, too. Me, too. (The sculpture is at the Walker Arts Center, in Minneapolis, a city I have long wanted to visit.) Enthusiasm from the get-go bodes well for a book, and Raczka's guide lived up to our expectations.
3-D ABC, for the older reader (7+) or a parent or teacher reading aloud, introduces children not only to letters and sculpture but also to artists and art terms. And it's fun, to boot. A short sentence or two on each page explains the full-page, full-color photograph of a sculpture, each of which is captioned with the work's official name, the artist's name, and the location of the piece. For example, the two-page spread for O and P reads, "O is for Obelisk" and further down the page, "P is for Pyramid." In a different color and font is the sentence, "Some sculptures look impossible." Pictured is Barnett Newman's "Broken Obelisk," in which an upside down obelisk seemingly balances on the point of a pyramid. "Is that for real?" Junior asked. Yep, and you can see it at the Rothko Chapel, in Houston.
Raczka chose high-interest works for his book, and each piece provides a lot to talk about. In real life the author works as copywriter at an ad agency, though he studied art in college. Commenting about an earlier version of this post, he gives full credit for the clean layout, which lets the art take center stage, to the folks at the publishing house. After reading 3-D ABC, I will look for Raczka's other Millbrook titles about art. This one was terrific.