Look Here! These Books Are Spectacular!

Character asks "Which ones do you prefer?" pn page showing 12 faces each wearing different glasses; page 14

Sometimes it appears that attention from many quarters comes to rest on one theme or an object with unanticipated universal agreement that this is the IT topic for the moment. This year in kids’ books we’re seeing that happen with—eyeglasses! In books that come to us from Spain, the Netherlands via New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, we can feast our eyes and minds on them; and from Switzerland we can delve even more deeply  through illustrated nonfiction. The view from here shows agreement that spectacles deserve their place, not just on the bridges of noses, but in front of readers’ attention.

Ever and deservedly popular picture book author and artist Leo Timmers represents with a funny picture book tale published by Gecko Press. Bear’s Lost Glasses provides us the hilarious point of view of what Bear thinks he’s seeing when, his much-needed eyewear apparently missing, he makes the trek to retrieve them from his friend.  Where readers can identify both the location of Bear’s glasses and the true identities of his fanciful beliefs that flamingos and other creatures have mysteriously appeared on what should be a familiar forest path, this point-of-view romp also offers a gentle nudge for all of us to look with our imaginations as well as with our eyes (whether the latter need specs for reality-checking or not).

Bear's Lost Glasses cover
Las gafas de Carlitos cover

Looking at illustration details for story clues is also important—and fun—in simultaneously publishing Charlie’s Eyeglasses and Las gafas de Carlitos from NubeOcho. Author Margarita del Muzo and illustrator Guridi complement each other’s playful storytelling of a little boy who falls in puppy love with a classmate. She wears glasses and this accoutrement becomes a must-have acquisition for her adoring fan. Together, he and picture book readers explore a variety of options, from 3-D lenses to x-ray lenses, all in pursuit of the eyewear that will get the girl to take notice of him. Whether enjoying the original Spanish or Cecilia Ross’s English translation edition, Guridi’s expressive cartoon characters communicate as well as do the words.

Misty Mole Gets New Glasses cover

While Timmers, del Muzo, and Guridi are recognized in the international kid lit world for previous picture book-based stories, Neem Tree Press brings an author we haven’t seen before—and also a very welcome eyeglasses-forward book for the same age group. Misty Mole Gets New Glasses is written by Dr. Yasmin El-Rouby, a Canadian eye doctor and founder of the Baseera Foundation, a non-profit organization, to improve access to basic eye care in developing countries. With spot-on illustrations by Ishy Walters, the story allows kids experience how the world can look to someone with uncorrected myopia through Misty’s viewpoint.  We accompany the eponymous insectivore to school (where the board seems blurry) and her beloved art class (where her own artwork also seems blurry), and at last to the eye doctor for a thorough exam and fitting for glasses. Lest you fear that all there is to see here is a lens for delivering factual information about myopia and eye care, rest assured that Misty and her cohort are indeed engaging, showing that a well-presented story can help readers to see underlying factual information more clearly.

These first three titles would make an engaging storytime program—extended with an accompanying eyeglasses-designing craft perhaps—Helvetiq’s Extraordinary Eyeglasses has a slightly older target audience and enough fascinating information clearly delivered in text by Caroline Stevan, with translation by Jeffrey K. Butt and illustrations by François Vigneault to keep both young researchers and the omnicurious perusing every section. The history of eyeglasses, anatomy and functional mechanics of the eye, types of vision problems, and even recreational eyewear each receive attention through cartoon illustrations, narrative with sufficient detail to provide fact while remaining engaging in brevity, and an interlude here and there of a wordless comic strip featuring “Beryl and the Superpowered Spectacles.” Activities and educator resources are included and hit the sweet spot for the seven to ten-year-old target audience.

Extraordinary Eyeglasses: The amazing invention that helps us see COVER

There’s so much to see in this collection of richly illustrated books so put on your on reading specs and enjoy!

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