EYE TO EYE
by Graeme Base - Penguin Books Australia, 2015
ages birth to 8 + grownup / coffee table, imagination, s.o.s.e., s.t.e.m.
It’s an Australian childhood ritual to pore over the latest Graeme Base book – I just looked in our copy of Animalia and saw that we bought it in 1989 when our oldest child was two years old.
So that’s 26 years we’ve been loving works by Graeme Base. But I think Eye to Eye could actually be my favourite (it's a tough call!).
As is the case with much of Graeme Base’s work, there’s a really strong but attainable environment message running through this book:
A boy sees ‘eye to eye’ with a whole range of animals in an array of habitats and circumstances.
We see the boy at first in silhouette—teddy bear by his side—making use of the everyday toys and objects around him to imagine and ponder on the wider world.
Then, on the next page, the boy is there, embedded in the habitat he’s pondering on—full of joy and immersed in life as he invites us into that world too.
It’s a visually captivating book – but there’s more that I love about it:
I love that the boy is willing to leap into each situation with gusto and enthusiasm – there’s no hint of fear or of hesitation.
I love that to see ‘eye to eye’ with each animal the boy becomes part of the animals’ life. Great for the subtle message that, if we are to hope to see ‘eye to eye’ with animals or people, we’ll need to really understand what it is to live their life. Brilliant from an environmental viewpoint and also for a human-rights or sociological approach.
I love that the language is brief but sophisticated. There are few words, but they do a wonderful job of expanding or reinforcing a child’s understanding of some of the idioms we use every day. ‘Eye to eye’ for example, or ‘got down to work’, or ‘went out on a limb’.
I love that ultimately the boy sees ‘eye to eye’ with himself—and that he’s surrounded by the various creatures he has visited when he does. A lovely reminder of the interconnectedness we all have with the world and its many fascinating creatures.
I love the super-brief facts about each of the animals at the end of the book—just enough to whet an appetite to know more. (Also – I had no idea there are crabs that are 4 metres wide!) The close ups of each animal’s eye are pretty mesmerising too.
And, as always in Graeme Base books—I love that the pictures are so superb. Each page reveals new delights as it is revisited time and again. Young eyes will have fun searching for the teddy bear on each page too—sometimes it's front and centre and other times it’s tucked away.