Square (The Shapes Trilogy)
"Young readers will laugh at Square even as they cheer him on."
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are both masters of deadpan humor. Square is no exception. At first the book seems to be a story about Sisyphean labor as Square pushes rocks up a hill every day for no discernible reason. Then it becomes a story about working hard to please others when Circle defines Square's work as "genius." What was pure effort to Square becomes art in Circle's eyes.
Finally the book becomes a question about what is art. When Square tries to chisel a portrait of Circle and ends up with a puddle ringed by stone chippings, he sees himself as a failure. Circle, entranced by her own reflection in the puddle, proclaims it a work of the greatest artistry.
Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder in this story. Square's flinty efforts contrast with Circle's breezy attitude, adding even more fun to their interaction. Young readers will laugh at Square even as they cheer him on. Then they should try to draw a Circle of their own and see how perfect they can make it. Maybe like Square, they'll end up with a scribble scrabble effort—which will be a work of genius in its own way.