Review: Two long ears by Jacob A. Boehne

An ‘alternative’ counting book.

Publication date: 28th January 2016
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing

Two Long Ears is an engaging, and artistically composed picture book, which seizes the opportunity to teach the reader about body art through the versatile medium of the counting book.

The portrayal of the different ways that people can modify their bodies in order to achieve different kinds of beauty is a novel way of presenting objects for teaching the numbers one to ten. It not only provides a point of conversation between the two readers, enabling understanding and the avoidance of prejudice early on, but creates a beautiful and diverse picture of the world around us.

Whilst fundamentally simple – the illustrations portray one characteristic at a time – the intricacies of the images are fascinating. A long time can be spent going over each illustration and picking out features which are not mentioned in the text, but which are equally individual. For example, the cover illustration provides the context for “two long ears” but also encourages the reader to consider the use of facial hair, and even – ignoring the obviously expressionistic use of colour – the portrayal of blue hair. Boehne has obviously given careful thought to the characters he has created for the work

Boehne also includes a page at the end of the book which provides reading suggestions for an adult reader. Although they can seem a little unnecessary – surely no one reading to a child will be able to avoid “noticing details in the text and illustrations” along the way?! – I like to think of them as stage directions. They serve an interesting purpose to both ‘break the fourth wall’ for the adult reader, but make the experience more theatrical and dramatic for the child reader. The instructions let the adult reader in on the act of creation alongside the author. Even if they are not reading to a small child at the time – as was the case for me – it reminds them of the purpose and of the full intended experience.

I would recommend Two Long Ears as a fascinating and exploratory work, with sound artistic value. For the adult reader, it is a book which takes advantage of a minimalist style to hide so many intriguing features in plain sight. For the child, aside from teaching to count to ten, it opens up a world of new kinds of people, or allows them to see the people they love portrayed in a way not often seen.

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