We picked up Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings at the library a few weeks ago, and after reading it to my girls, I realized two things: first, I want us to grow a butterfly garden this year; and second, this was not the first of her books we’ve enjoyed over the past few years, and her books warrant a closer look. (I guess that’s three things, isn’t it?)
I think we first encountered Lois Ehlert’s engaging text and colorful artwork in the book Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On which we purchased as a souvenir from an aquarium for Lulu when she was a toddler. This is a perfect book for board-book format, with Ehlert’s trademark graphic and brightly-colored illustrations and fish (and eyes!) to count on each page.
Ehlert is a prolific author and illustrator, and she utilizes different mediums for her illustrations. I am no art expert, but using my very limited knowledge of types of art, I would classify hers as mostly collage. The element of her illustrations that I enjoy the most is her use of cut-work or die-cut pages. For example, the cover of Pie in the Sky has cut out circles on the top of the piecrust so that the bright orangey-red of the title page shows through (and hints at what type of pie is growing in the sky). The first couple of pages are actually only half-pages which look like a tree trunk. Waiting for Wings is also made up of half-pages that help move the story along through what is hidden and revealed.
One of the things I really love about Ehlert’s books is their simplicity of design but their amazing detail in terms of content. Growing Vegetable Soup is a perfect example of this. The text is simple and in a very large typeface. In fact, the whole book is comprised of only seven sentences. However, each bright, graphic picture in this book is identified with a smaller word. There is plenty to look at in discuss in even this simple book. Pie in the Sky is a more complex story, but even it has explanatory notes in a different font about what can be seen on each page.
Ehlert’s books are ones that can be enjoyed by children (and adults!) of all ages. One fun thing about them is that because she uses found objects in her illustrations, children could even make their own illustrations in the style of Lois Ehlert. Her books would be useful in any nature or science curriculum.
While tooling about the internet in search of more information about Ehlert, I happened upon this great interview with her. Parents, never underestimate the power of letting your children make a mess!
Check out Lois Ehlert! You’ll be glad you did!