When I did my initial just-read-the-pictures look through Mine! (see Step 5 of Robin Smith’s advice), I found myself looking at this picture book as if it were a graphic novel. You know those occasional dramatic moments when the multi-panel structure gives way to an illustration that takes up the whole spread? On that first flip-through, I thought, Here’s a dramatic one-panel illustration, at several points.

Well, the joke’s on me: as I soon realized, the vast majority of the images in Mine! are only one panel, and I only even call them “panels” because of those borders around the spreads that make the world seem so self-contained, giving it the feel of a fairy tale. But the book does use graphic-novel conventions, and its use of thought bubbles probably explains why I felt like I was looking at more panels than I actually was. On multiple spreads, we are seeing two illustrations at once: an animal’s reality in the present, and that same animal’s vision of itself obtaining the apple. Thick borders, simple images, and a consistent pattern — the reality is always in the bottom left, and the thought-bubble image is always in the upper right, with a white background — make the concept easy to understand for even the newest readers and viewers. The varied perspectives help, too, making it feel like the structure is constantly changing as we shift from one animal’s point of view to another’s. 

When I went back and read the text, it was clear that the spreads that had stood out to me as spare were spare for good reasons. Yes, they’re dramatic moments. They’re also emptier than other illustrations for the sake of contrast. In one, the wind is being treated as a character, so the space a forest creature would otherwise take up is instead given just to white swirls. And in several toward the end, the scene is nearly empty because the apple has moved away from the herd of animals populating the climactic spreads. 

Which brings me to the most graphic novel–esque portion of the book. The climax. The core of the story, if you will. The apple falls Down...Down...past five animals and across five panels in the same spread, a prime example of sequential art; as Julie Roach’s review notes, the panels slow time. The apple hits the ground, and the pace speeds up: all of the animals have jumped after it so quickly that they’re halfway off the spread, with five overlapping speech bubbles in their wake, each one proclaiming “MINE!” Another page-turn, and the next illustration erupts in a free-for-all: a cloudlike puff obscures most of the action, but well-placed bear paws, rabbit ears, and more abstract stars and movement lines make it clear that a battle is being fought. On the next spread, things quiet down as that whole battle moves off the spread to the left, and the apple rolls to the right toward one final claimant…or not-so-final. 

These composition choices keep pages turning. And the style and palette in Rohmann’s art, created with stained paper and relief printmaking, add to that fairy-tale feel. (I couldn’t help thinking of Snow White’s apple — but that’s quite a different piece of fruit!) As Julie Danielson’s review points out, that style is reminiscent of Rohmann’s past Caldecott winner, My Friend Rabbit

As always, there are so many amazing contenders for this year’s Caldecott. But if you’re looking for “excellence... of delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood, or information through the pictures,” I wouldn’t count this out. Will a shiny sticker be Mine!’s? Committee, the decision is Yours! 

[Read The Horn Book Magazine review of Mine!]

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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