Invisible Things is not your average picture book. Instead of 32 pages, there are 52. Instead of one main character, there are several, and not who you might think. These characters are feelings, invisible things that have somehow been drawn into all kinds of crazy characters. It might take a few readings before all the different shapes and colors sink in.
“Some things are INVISIBLE THINGS. But don’t worry—in this book you get to SEE THE INVISIBLE because there’s more to life than meets the eye.”
After an introduction to the five senses, the authors draw different sounds that a reader might hear. Some examples are given: what a dog bark would look like, a song stuck in your head, a whisper. Then the reader has to figure out what each drawing on the next page represents. Here’s where is gets abstract real fast, so this isn’t a book for two or three year olds. Then the authors talk about echoes and what they might look like.
Smells are drawn on the next double-page spread, somewhat easier than sounds. Taste comes next. “A lollipop looks kinda boring but it tastes like rainbow MAGIC.”
“And broccoli looks so cute, but it doesn’t taste cute. It tastes like FEET.” Four drawings represent coziness, a chill, the sense of touch, and hugging a friend.
The authors veer off into feelings. This book is not entertaining the reader but rather making them work to figure out what is what. Joy, love, hope, gratitude, and well-being are the feelings drawn next.
“If your mood today were a color, what color would it be?”
The next page talks about vibes with a page where the reader can find all nine types, more work. Then a page shows a bunch of drawings for things that can make you feel good or bad: itches, Déjà vu, nostalgia, a dream, chaos, a lost thing, weirdness, a spirit, spooky, heebie-jeebies, and lost in a book.
“For example: Heebie-Jeebies. They scurry around in dark places, making you feel uneasy. They may seem like bad vibes, but don’t be afraid—they’re actually pretty cute.” Huh? The next page talks about fear. Then it moves on to guts, then sadness, the blues, and melancholy. A double-page spread suggests fake laughs to get out of feeling down.
“What am I feeling today?” There’s a chart on the opposite page and an expanded chart on the front and back covers.
The art is bold and colorful. Some of the interpretations are clever and others more ambiguous. Some don’t seem to fit at all, such as math, a niff, infinity, and gravity (invisible but not feelings). These don’t seem to belong with the other things that represent feelings: a chill, big mood, the blahs, belonging.
This book breaks new ground by focusing on things we cannot see. The authors have shown us their versions of what their feelings look like. After several readings, kids will catch on to which drawing goes with which feeling. Teachers could get kids to draw these feelings or create their own versions.
Therapists could use this book while talking with their patients. Teachers could design lesson plans around a page from the book.
Kudos to Chronicle for doing a different kind of book. Some readers will totally get it, others not so much.