A how-to book that isn’t.
This whimsical, poetic instruction manual for how to tie a shoe mentions eating spaghetti, finding birds’ nests, combing hair, and staring at patterns in a rug, assuming children (probably) can figure out how to tie their own shoes. Sketchy, black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations portray children from many different backgrounds doing everyday activities like playing outside in a sprinkler, greeting buddies, and hugging good friends after summer break. Hill illustrates a black girl peeking out from inside a tent on her first camping trip and a girl hugging a boy (both are white) in a wheelchair—normalizing portrayals that still rarely appear in picture books. Stylized, hand-drawn text blurs the boundaries between words and pictures and emphasizes that words can morph into art and vice versa—or that words are art, and art evokes language. Perspectives vary in each scene: Some children look directly out at the audience; sometimes readers gaze into a scene past the child character’s back; sometimes readers see only a child’s hands or legs. Emotions vary too, including joy, contemplation, and sadness, offering a range of vicarious experiences for readers. Ultimately, this book uses learning to tie a shoe as a metaphor for personal growth and experiential learning—with the beauty and challenges that accompany both.
A quirky picture book that respects the intelligence of children. (Picture book. 7-11)