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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Who's Hiding?

who's hiding? children's book review satoru onishiWho's Hiding?
by Satoru Onishi

Suggested age: preschoolers, 2-5 years

Who's Hiding? is an exquisitely charming, yet simple concept book for preschoolers, (and older toddlers), in which Satoru Onishi presents over a dozen recognizable animals, half a dozen colors, and the concepts of camouflage and emotions, while charging the young minds to concentrate and conjecture.

The deceptively simple cover is what drew me to the book at the library initially. But, now that it has been home for a week and much-enjoyed by adult and toddler alike, I am driven to share it here.

A cursory flip through the book might suggest monotony and tedious repetition. But, all that changes once we start interacting with the book. For, every page poses a question challenging the little minds to figure out the answer. It is a picture puzzle book of sorts, combining the stimulation and observational skills required of Memory Cards and the I-Spy games.

The primary appeal of this book is the visual challenge. It has no story. In the first double-page spread, the animals are introduced in specific positions with characteristic features that distinguish them easily, each in a solid color – like green hippo, blue bear, orange zebra, brown lion, red rhino and so on – who look straight at the reader with a seemingly docile and neutral expression to begin with (except for the zebra, which in my adult perspective seems quite fierce throughout the book).

Subsequent pages each render the animals in the same order and color throughout, as a double-page spread, except, each spread poses a single question like "Who's hiding?" or "Who's crying?" or "Who's angry?", the answer for which is cleverly embedded in the images on that page by making subtle changes to the original images introduced in the first spread.

For instance, early in the book, on my first read, when we came upon, "Who's crying?", my adult mind tarried a bit by which time Ana spotted the crying bunny and pointed it out excitedly.

It seemed like the questions become progressively harder to answer with each spread. "Who's angry?" seemed the most challenging for me to answer.

The crowning glory of the book is the last spread where the lights are turned out on the animals, asking, "Who's who?" while the illustration simply reveals their respective pairs of eyes on a dark page challenging the reader’s memory to identify each animal on its allotted spot on the page.

There is an answer key at the end of the book which seems superfluous considering how well the illustrations serve to identify the answers, encouraging the readers to simply pay close attention to details in the spread.

This clever concept and visual puzzle book will quickly become a favorite with toddlers and preschoolers, encouraging observation and inference skills not only based on pattern recognition, but also on memory skills.

[This post written for Saffron Tree]

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