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Book review: ‘Perfect Square’ by Michael Hall

PERFECT SQUARE

By Michael Hall

Greenwillow. $16.99. Ages 4-8

Close on the heels of his rollicking, rhyming ode to animals and their attitudes (“My Heart Is Like a Zoo”), Michael Hall again engineers geometric shapes and bold colors into a simple but expressive story. With a familiar sequence — the days of the week — as a backdrop, the emphasis this time is on the endless possibilities afforded by unexpected and nominally negative events. On Monday, a heretofore “perfectly happy” perfect square was “cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn’t perfectly square anymore.” The text for this sequence is set in bold white type on a perfectly square red page. The facing page shows a matching (but smaller) red square in a definite state of disarray. Turn the page, and the pieces have gleefully reassembled themselves into a fountain that “babbled and giggled and clapped.” The palette modulates from reds to golds to blues and greens as Tuesday brings a garden full of flowers, Wednesday a verdant park and so on until Sunday, when the square reverts to its perfect state of squareness. Now, however, “Its four equal sides were confining. Its four matching corners were rigid and cramped.” The resolution is both effortless and utterly appropriate for a book that begs for reams of colored paper, rooms full of imaginative hands, and a whole lot of clapping and giggling. Pair this with Barney Saltzberg’s “Beautiful Oops!” for an afternoon of rainy day fun.

— Kristi Elle Jemtegaard

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