illus. by Christoph Niemann. 352p. index. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062455505.
PreS-Gr 4—Niemann begin with a simple concept: he illustrates 300 of the most common sight words in English using a thick black marker and a big stack of paper. The nouns and adjectives ("dog," "small," "street") are simple enough to represent. But how to approach "why," "just," or "but"? Niemann rises to the occasion in this delightful, thought-provoking experiment to "celebrate language and art." Beginning readers will enjoy looking at the images and sounding out the words. However, this title is way more than a traditional primer. Part of the fun is puzzling out the thought process behind the images. Some spreads use the context of both pages to convey the meaning (e.g., "left/right," "could/would"). More experienced readers will appreciate the nuance and complexity of some of the renderings. For instance, "test" looks like a swimmer dipping a toe into the water, and "state" is a half-melted snowman looking down at his own puddle. In figuring out why Niemann represents a word in a particular way, readers and aspiring artists will uncover and perhaps challenge their own ways of constructing meaning.
VERDICT Recommended for most collections as well as for classrooms and family time.

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