In a style reminiscent of Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Previn uses die cuts and simple phrasing to explore many different kinds of spots.
It has all the makings of a grand concept book—squat, square trim, bright colors—but it’s a bit unclear on the actual concept it is trying to teach or, in fact, exactly what the “spot” is. The cover may lead children to believe that Spot is a Dalmatian puppy, but within, children will find that “spot” is an omnibus term whose exact meaning is flexible. Many of the “spot” pairs are true opposites: “Spot jumps. / Spot crawls. // Spot flies. / Spot falls” (the “spots” are, respectively, a frog’s spot, ant’s segment, firefly’s light and ladybug’s dot). Some “spots,” like the opening spread that depicts a rooster and an alarm clock (“Spot crows. / Spot wakes”), are similar and not opposite at all. Others, such as a bowling ball and the tires of a car (“Spot rolls. / Spot zooms”), are even more of a stretch. Literal-minded children will go nuts trying to figure out exactly what the “spot” is in each picture. The name of the rooster or its eye? The hole in a tree (“Spot grows”)? If so, is the hole growing or the tree growing? Regardless, the thick, crackled acrylics and heavy brush strokes give incredible texture to each pair. Extreme close-ups and generous swaths of bold colors heighten the exuberance. The playful game of searching for spots just may be enough to carry youngsters through.
The concepts have gone slightly askew, but the book can spark discussion, which just might be the only educational bent needed. (Picture book. 2-5)