An animal struggles toward self-expression, taking inspiration from his friends’ creations and realizing he can choose his own art form.
Tapir, a gray animal with a long snout and a gently curved body, has pencils and a blank notebook. When he tries to write, his head feels “empty, just like his page.” His friends write easily: Giraffe scribes a poem, Hippo crafts a story, and Flamingo composes a song. Giraffe has “a way with words,” Hippo’s story is “exciting,” and Flamingo’s song brings a tear to Tapir’s eye—all of which Tapir finds impressive but daunting. Feeling insecure and wordless, Tapir wanders up a hill and gazes at the landscape. When he unpacks his pencils, he knows what to do: He draws a sun for Flamingo, a muddy pool for Hippo and a tall tree for Giraffe, and then he draws his friends into the scene. Russell’s screen-print illustrations use simple, tidy shapes and flat, medium-intensity colors. Tapir’s drawings, like his friends’ work, are childlike; unlike similar books that show dramatic distinction between the primary visual narrative and the characters’ in-book work, Russell provides little contrast.
While blander than many available options about writer’s block, mustering voice or choosing an art form, this may also be more directly encouraging for readers who need the message, as the results seem so achievable. (Picture book. 4-7)