Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Hello, Goodbye Window

Juster, Norton. 2005. The Hello, Goodbye Window. Ill. by Chris Raschka. New York: Hyperion Books. ISBN 0786809140

Plot Summary:
The plot in this Caldecott Medal winning book is simple. The story is an account of a child's day spent at her grandparent's home while her parents are working. She relates a typical day, focusing on the "hello goodbye" window, the window in the front of her grandparent's home through which she enjoys the view from both the inside and the outside throughout the day and early evening hours.

Critical Analysis:
This tale is told in the first person in a tone that should be quite believable to small children. The little girl says "I get tired I come in and take my nap and nothing happens until I get up." This is one of my favorite lines in the book because I remember my own daughter being absolutely shocked to find out that Mom and Dad ate ice cream while she was sleeping! Norton Juster clearly understands a child's perspective.

The "hello goodbye window" is an integral part of the setting, both in the text and illustrations. The window represents reality, fantasy, and imagination. She sees her grandparents through the window as her parents prepare to drop her off. She sees the Queen of England coming to visit for tea. Her grandfather amuses her by talking to her nighttime reflection in the window as if she is actually outside the window.

The illustrations are bright and cheery and busy and serve to set the book's mood. They are done in the impressionistic style. The blended colors and somewhat out of focus characters make this apparently mixed-race family relative to readers of any ethnicity. It's culturally inclusive in an understated manner. The lively colors and curly lines set the tone for an upbeat look at a mundane experience.

Review Excerpts:
Writing for School Library Journal, Angela Reynolds praised the artwork in this Caldecott award winning book,noting "The artwork is at once lively and energetic, without crowding the story or the words on the page; the simple lines and squiggles of color suggest a child's own drawings, but this is the art of a masterful hand."

This book can be a great jumping-off point to entertain and interact with a child confined inside due to illness, injury, or bad weather. With a sign created in the likeness of the book's artwork, any window can be designated the "hello goodbye window" or the "rainy day window" or even the "chicken-pox window." From that point, with pencil and lined paper or crayons or paints the possibilities are endless - bird watching, people watching, or fantasizing and even creating the perfect view from the window.

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