Look: A Picture Book

Image of Look
Release Date: 
April 16, 2024
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Reviewed by: 

“The world is all around—

filled with colors and shapes and sizes.

When it’s hard to make sense of this world . . .

Look . . .”

A companion book to Gabi Snyder’s picture book Listen (2021), which Kirkus Reviews has called “memorable,” Look teaches the concept of patterns, making it a good book for four- through eight-year-old children, whose kindergarten and first-grade math curricula revolve around the subject. In fact, early childhood research studies show that children’s pattern understanding at five years old is a predictor of early reading and correlates with their mathematical abilities at 11 years old.

The story follows a boy and his pregnant mother as they leave their recently purchased home (the for sale sign is still out front) and walk through their new neighborhood to a farmer’s market, past a boat yard, along a forest trail, across a bridge, into town, and back home again. The text points out patterns along the way, reading more like a simplified lesson plan than a children’s story:

“Where else can you discover stripes?”

“Can you walk in an alternating pattern?”

“Can you make an alternating pattern with rocks?”

Samantha Cotterill’s illustrations are a visual extravaganza. Each page is adorned with vibrantly colored, natural and human-made patterns that every child will recognize from their own life. The lines of each image are simple yet detailed in an almost overstimulating fashion that will have children flipping through the pages and looking for new patterns in the pictures even after their caregivers have finished reading the story. It is no wonder that Cotterill’s artwork has been called “fabulously fun” by the Wall Street Journal and “a rollicking celebration” by the New York Times.

In addition to its conceptualization of patterns, the most significant part of the book is how Snyder, who studied psychology at the University of Washington, instructs children to “stop, look around,” and seek patterns in their surroundings as a means of coping when they are anxious or overstimulated by “this vast world.”

The story’s ending encourages the reader to look up “at the stars like a giant connect-the-dots picture,” explaining that patterns are “everywhere connecting us.” Because stars do not repeat themselves, this threatens to confuse the elementary lesson in the book, which is that of patterns as repeated designs. Young children are unlikely to understand the secondary and more complicated definition of a pattern as a regular or intelligible form.

Nonetheless, the ending brings simple closure to this simple story and will touch adult readers even if it doesn’t connect with the children they are reading to; and the demonstration of patterns throughout the rest of the book is sure to make it a useful tool in kindergarten and first-grade classes.