Can You See Me? by Gökçe Irten

Can You See Me? by Gökçe Irten. Kids Can Press, c2020, 2021. 9781525308376

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  An unseen narrator addresses readers to point out a subtly philosophical concept: that size is relative. Some things around us are small and some are big, but it’s really a matter of seeming. An airplane looks huge when we stand next to it, but small in the sky. If you were as small as a flea, an orangutan’s short fur would look like a forest. If you grew as fast as a caterpillar, your feet would triple in size in just 3 days. Over and over, we’re asked to look at the world from another’s perspective; useful not only when dealing with size, but for more existential concepts as well. Irten uses an eye-catching collection of colors (all sunny and warm) combined with retro, found objects layered in clever collages (and further enhanced with Photoshop). The results are dreamy yet compelling. A photo of a magnifying glass enlarges the tiny hand drawn purple fleas we’ve seen on previous pages, awestruck by a giant (to them) smiling red ant. A ladybug crawls on a leaf, but on the next page, we see her shape and pattern echoed in a girl’s polka-dotted red beret as she walks her dog (with those pesky fleas hopping off). Irten provides something for everyone here: big important observations, high-interest factoids (elephant footprints filled with water provide habitats for more than 60 different species), and beautiful, absorbing artwork.The human child in the pictures is White.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It was a bit meandering. Very literal children may not appreciate this mix of fancy and fact. Also, the teaser on the front, “A book about feeling small” was misleading, giving me the idea that the book might be about self-esteem. Possibly this is just awkward translation.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Young listeners willing to bend the boundaries between nonfiction and picture books will enjoy this. Given the visual differential between the small and large things, I think this would work best one-on-one or in small groups.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: October 24, 2021

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