I used to live in Vermont, where one of the summer rituals is a trip to Glover, to see Bread and Puppet Theater‘s papier-mâché circuses. One of the Bread and Puppet credos is that art should be cheap and for everyone.
Accordingly, they have a stand where you can buy their posters for almost nothing. People hang them in the kitchen. There are other publications as well, booklets and calendars and whatnot, illustrated mostly with relief prints. A few summers ago, I picked up a copy of I Am You for $4 or so.
Just as a puppet show can be made of paper, paste, and junk, I Am You is evidence that picture books don’t need to be made of anything more than a few folded sheets of paper. The small book is offset printed in yellow and blue, staple bound, and only 12 pages long, with the simplest text and images you can imagine. Nonetheless, this is a complete and moving story about love, with all the symbolism two-color printing allows—it’s hard to avoid comparisons to Little Yellow and Little Blue.
It’s also hard to discuss this book without quoting the entire thing, since it’s only 28 words long (shorter than Yo! Yes?)! But I’ll try. Two individuals. One leaves; the other expresses love. The centerfold spread, which shows the bird character flying away in two crudely-cut V’s, is accompanied by “Wait! don’t go away.” Four words and two blue blobs, and it gets me every time.
Is it for children? Well, it isn’t not for children. A beginning reader could manage the text, and the story is universal. Like Bread and Puppet’s circuses, it’s for everyone.
Indie Picture Books That Are Awesome is an ongoing effort to ferret out small-press goodies and self-published gems.