Window – Jeannie Baker

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

I do have a love for picture books that have no written text. There is something about the way you engage with them – especially when reading them with small children that is quite unique and very enjoyable. Studying the images, looking for clues, reading the story by interpreting what you’re seeing – I feel like all of that is good exercise for children, and also means constructing the story in a more active, somehow less linear way. It’s fun.

It does however make passing the Bechdel more or less impossible, though this book is seen through the eyes of a boy anyway, so it probably wouldn’t have passed. The images show exactly two people who are obviously people of colour in the whole book, so while I did give it this point, it is still a fairly white-washed world we are being presented.

Nevertheless, it’s a neat book. It has a pretty clear agenda to do with appreciating how much impact we humans have on our environments. There is a clear ideological standpoint here to do with urbanisation and the destruction of wild areas and how that’s bad. I don’t disagree, but I’ve never been a fan of force-feeding ideology, even ones I agree with.

Still, the book is very cleverly constructed – each double spread looks out of the same window of the same house as a boy grows from babyhood to adulthood and moves out. We see the landscape outside of the window change, moving from bush to town. The boy’s interests change as he grows, until eventually on the last spread we see his new, adult window in what we must assume is his new house, as he holds his own new baby in his arms, and looks out, once again, at native bush.

The message is there and clear (to me, anyway), but C didn’t really get the environmental thing from it. He was interested in the things that stayed the same. He wanted to find the boy’s aging cat in each image. He went looking for cool things to look at, and words to read on the walls and the boy’s birthday cards. (This is probably because knowing how to read is still novel and exciting to him. 🙂 )

There is something cool about that kind of discovery, and while I found the message a bit unsubtle (I like ideology to be subtle), I still think it’s a book worth looking for. There is a lot going on there, and it is quite effective.

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