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OPPOSITES ABSTRACT by Mo Willems Kirkus Star


by Mo Willems ; illustrated by Mo Willems

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-368-07097-3
Publisher: Hyperion

An exploration of abstract art inspires readers to ask what exactly is an opposite, anyway?

First, the elephant in the room: There are no elephants here, nor pigs nor pigeons, for that matter. Instead, readers find enticing acrylic-and-ink abstracts that would feel equally at home on an art museum’s walls or a child’s bedroom floor. What sets it apart as a concept book is Willem’s insistence on questioning the criteria of opposites. Instead of declaring it so, he invites readers viewing a gently curved, colorfully blobby painting to ponder, “Is this soft?” Who made that decision anyway? Some compositions feel easy to interpret, such as a “calm” pale-blue, wavelike composition contrasting with an “excited” shape- and line-filled extravaganza. Bold additions of open-ended pairs, such as the circuit-filled “mechanical” and amoebalike “organic” pairing, seem purposefully designed to elicit rich conversation. None will accomplish that more than a poignant “inclusion” and “exclusion” set, with a grid of matte primary-colored rectangles juxtaposed with an empty white square with a singular, lonely black square in the corner. Only a barely painted teal square on the opening page which “is starting” and on a final page declared “finished” as a fully painted square are utterly definitive (both statements are the only ones that end with periods), reminding readers that everything else is up to them.

Like the art itself, this book leaves space to see and contemplate. Is this for you? Absolutely.

(Concept book. 4-10)