High-contrast paper-collage illustrates a catalog of air’s uses.
Individually, the images may require some help to parse, but collectively they expand viewers’ understanding. “I need fresh air,” declares the text, while on the opposite page a human figure appears to be opening French doors onto a clear, blue sky. In the following spread, a brown-skinned face, lips open, in profile dominates the verso, with trees in the background and text that explains “I need air to breathe.” In the third, birds with wings outstretched are the visuals that accompany “I need air to soar over the mountains.” Moving thus from the metaphorical to the concrete, the book effectively engages its very young readers with the unseen, barely felt element that surrounds them. Air is used to blow up balloons, to fly kites, and to fill scuba tanks; in this last spread, the pale blue sky modulates to a more saturated blue to represent the underwater environment while a wet-suited diver’s exhalations are represented by bubbles. The final spread, which depicts a small silhouetted figure next to a belching factory smokestack, brings readers full circle with the indisputable assertion that “I need clean air.” This clever sequencing both brings home to adults the book’s environmental message and gives toddlers ways to understand one of their most basic necessities.
Breathe deep, and turn the page. (Board book. 1-3)