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Review of Square

Square
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.    g
5/18    978-0-7636-9607-8    $15.99

The Barnett-Klassen tag team is back with a companion book to Triangle (rev. 5/17), told through the collaborators’ signature meld of earthy, textured images and witty, thoughtful narrative. Square spends his days pushing square-shaped boulders from the bottom of his cave up to the top of a hill. One day, seeing a resemblance between Square and the block he’s moving, Square’s friend Circle declares that Square is an artistic genius. Before Square knows it, he has agreed to create a sculpture in Circle’s likeness. But he is woefully unprepared for the job. Or is he? As Square struggles to understand and meet Circle’s expectations (staying up all night in the pouring rain to attempt to chisel a perfect circle from a square stone block), he experiences a range of emotions that build until Circle returns the next morning to see Square’s creation. Barnett’s text is funny and profound, raising philosophical questions about intent, genius, and truth. Klassen’s trademark eyes do a lot of emotive work amid the spare, fantastical setting. Angled lines (in the rocks, plants, and slanting rain) and white space direct readers’ own eyes across each page or spread, and short sentences, smart dialogue, and word repetition keep the story moving at a steady pace. Readers looking for a compelling read-aloud will not be disappointed.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.

About Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Deerfield Public Library in Illinois.

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