The Caldecott Committee tends to like wordless books. In my year, we gave an honor book award to The Red Book. In the past ten years, four winners were wordless or nearly wordless. Plus Raschka is a past winner. I have no doubt this will be on the current committee’s list for discussion.
Do you all know this book? The plot is simple: dog loves ball, ball pops, dog gets new ball. Raschka, whose art and book concepts can sometimes be difficult to parse (Waffle, Simple Gifts), is doggily direct here. Daisy’s joy and sorrow are shown magnified through her body language and by impressionistic splotches of watery color. Less significant aspects of Daisy’s life are painted faintly (her “owner,” details of the park she plays in) while everything that is important to her (the ball, the couch, another dog at the park) get fully saturated colors. Daisy herself is rendered with light gray outlines, but her eyes, nose, ears, tail, and toes are dark, punctuating the pages that show repeated images of her.
Throughout, Raschka sense of rhythm is flawless. Repetitions of the red ball dot the playful spreads while Daisy’s post-ball depression is shown with a static repetition of the green couch, the dog sinking deeper and deeper into its cushions. Look at how simply Raschka draws this. He just shows less and less of Daisy until in the fourth panel all we see is ears, a bit of back, and a sagging tail.
Because Rashcka’s style is so gestural (if I may use that term outside of human figure drawing) and his brush strokes so loose, it’s sometimes hard to see exactly where Daisy’s mouth or eyes are. But there is never any question of the emotion being depicted.
This book has grown on me with repeated readings. I’ve been a fan of Raschka’s since the beginning, but A Ball for Daisy gets better each time I read it. In my opinion, it depicts the emotional lives of children in a way that is both engaging and profound.
What’s YOUR opinion?