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Mirror by Jeannie Baker | Class #1, 2015

mirrorWordless books present an interesting challenge to adults who share them with children. Is there a right way to read them? There is a heated discussion about this going on in the comments to Megan Lambert’s recent post about The Farmer and the Clown.

The great children’s literature specialist Rudine Sims Bishop has talked and written about books for children needing to be both windows and mirrors. This book seems to me to be the epitome of that idea.

There’s so much to look at in this book. The format is unlike any other books I’ve seen. The juxtaposition of two cultures is done cleverly and, I think, with a great deal of subtlety and empathy. Can you spot the character who appears in both stories? Do you have thoughts about how you might prepare to share this book with children?

Carli Spina, one of last year’s children’s lit students, blogged about using wordless books in the classroom here last week.

To see the other readings for this week, click on the tag link below: “Books for H810F 2/26/15

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Lindsey Bailey says:

    I loved the way this book highlighted not just the similarities and differences between the two cultures presented, but how the two cultures are connected to one another – for instance, when the Australian family bought the traditional rug. I think it invites good discussion questions about the value of work and its place/impact in the global economy, and the ways in which we are connected to people around the world – something I love to talk about and explore with students!

  2. Josh Jenkins says:

    I haven’t taught this book before, but I have taught Tuesday by David Weisner, another wordless book. I found that wordless books are really a unique way to get kids to pay attention to subtlety and detail. It also offered a chance for kids to “write” the book, prompting them, “What words would you put on this page?”

  3. This book has such a refreshing way of presenting themes that are so deep and so relevant to many of the issues in today’s world. I liked that it was a wordless book because when looking at the pictures and forming the story in my head, the silence felt louder and more powerful than words. It made me wonder how this book would be read to children though. Should the both stories be read simultaneously, or read independently? It seems that reading the stories together would help in the juxtaposition of themes, but may be confusing and hard to follow the narrative of each one.

    I also found the way the images were presented (in collage form) fascinating! Loved the 3D effect that it created. It also felt very suitable for this book as the pictures felt real.

  4. This book is so novel in its execution and presentation! As adults, we often get so wrapped up in the words on the page, that we fail to let children create a their own story. Not only does this book provide valuable cultural information, but also provides rich opportunity for skill development. Through children’s story-telling of Mirror, they can develop language skills, compare/contrast abilities, and more robust social emotional skills.

  5. Sara Gordon says:

    This book is beautiful. Initially, I was looking for the words, thinking I was missing something. Similarly to my peers who commented earlier, I found the images very powerful, and I believe that giving children the opportunity to create their own story and draw their own connections helps them develop necessary skills. The collage technique seems particularly unique, and based on the description of how it was done, incredibly time-consuming. I think it is great for young children (and adults!) to be able to experience and learn about different people and cultures, and this book provides a good way of accomplishing that.

  6. Elisa Gall says:

    This book is a true art object. Flipping through each set of pages I can imagine students calling out “Same!” Different!” and creating their own mental Venn Diagrams. I wonder, however, about the comparison between an affluent, urban Australian family with a family from rural Morocco. Could this particular comparison reinforce a stereotype? If I read this book with my students (who live in the West), I’d feel a responsibility to bring this imbalance to their attention and discuss it further.

  7. Annie Thomas says:

    This book was so lovely and I enjoyed so much looking at the images! I loved how dynamic they were, you could almost feel the characters movements. One way in which I would prepare this for students is by asking them to think about things that they do with their families everyday and then read the book and have them think about the similarities they saw between the two families and their own. I would also ask them to specifically think about the differences they saw in the foods the families eat, the shopping experiences and traveling between the different cultures. How did the two little boys do things similarly?

  8. Kasey Michel says:

    I have a particular interest in wordless books due to my work studying narrative language.
    As part of the ADOS (a diagnostic measure for diagnosing ASD), children are asked to take turns with a clinical investigator to tell a story from the book Tuesday (mentioned by Josh, above). It has been fascinating to see the different dimensions that different children bring to the table — in their interpretation of the scenes themselves or what the characters are feeling/thinking, and I still have to keep a copy close by when coding as they bring new things to my attention.
    As beautiful as the cultural story woven through the pages of Mirror was, I have to agree with Amy when I say that the skills that students can develop when asked to share in the experience of telling these wordless stories is what really gets me excited!

  9. Like many of my fellow commenters here, I was struck by how beautiful and intricately presented the book was. I first went into this book expecting to find a written story, but it ended up completely overthrowing my narrow, stereotypical notion of children’s books. Relating to the title of “Mirror”, I particularly appreciated the design choices made in the book where the Australian family is pictured on the left and read from left to right, while the Moroccan family is pictured on the right and read from right to left – made especially salient because English is read from left to right and Arabic (which I presume the introduction was in?) is read from right to left. Small cultural details like this – along with the collages with accurate fabric types and textured landscaping – really make the story come alive.

  10. Ben Johnson says:

    As the posts state above, wordless books pose a unique challenge to teachers, but, in turn, also pose unique opportunities. I have found that wordless books provide an excellent opportunity for children to act as authors, writing/telling their own stories to go along with the art. Students are often surprised to find that they each came up with different stories. This book provides an especially distinct opportunities as children could come up with separate, but integrated stories for each location. The symmetry in the imagery and actions in the book allow for an excellent opportunity for young students to begin to identify and create symmetry in their own writing and comprehension.

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