Review posted May 8, 2011.
Marshall Cavendish Children, 2010, 42 pages.
2010 Cybils Picture Books Shortlist
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Picture Books
Chalk is absolutely brilliant. Many of us were hoping it would win the 2011 Caldecott Medal. It came to my attention when it was listed on the Cybils Picture Books Shortlist, so I read it at the start of January. I will be very surprised if it is not my Number One Sonderbooks Stand-out for Picture Books for 2011. Though you never know what the year will bring, Chalk raises the bar very high.
Chalk is a wordless picture book. The pictures are photorealistic, and at first glance you think they're done by a computer, but a note at the back says Bill Thomson hand-painted all the pictures, which makes the book all the more amazing.
The story is simple, but a knock-out winner. Three children (of three different ethnicities) come to a playground on a rainy day. They find a bag hanging on a bouncy dinosaur ride. The bag contains some sidewalk chalk. The first girl draws a sun shining -- and immediately the rain stops and the sun comes out. The second girl draws butterflies, which pop off the pavement and fly away.
Then the boy takes a piece of green chalk and gets a gleam in his eye. He draws a tyrannosaurus rex.
Eventually, his quick-thinking saves them. He does still have a piece of chalk.
The children leave the bag of chalk where they found it, but we see the boy looking back.
You really need to check out or buy this book for yourself and see the pictures yourself. The story is compelling by itself, but the pictures make it brilliant. I don't think any two pictures are painted from the same perspective. The unique angles on the action, the looks on the children's faces -- so many things make this a book you can read over and over and discover new details each time.