Find the odd one out.
On a Saturday morning trip to the Brooklyn Public Library with my 1-year-old daughter, the cover of Undercover caught my eye before we could even sit down on the rug and take off our coats. The duotone illustrations—all objects are rendered in green, fuchsia, or the tone of those two colors combined—spoke to my more minimalist sensibilities, and the style of the illustrations reminded me of artwork we’d put in a Tinybop app. I grabbed it and together we sat down on the rug.
Each page in this picture book offers a collection of similar objects, from types of buildings to hats to bugs to tools to frozen desserts. Amongst each grouping there’s always one outlier—the undercover object—that is subtly and artfully hidden amongst the others. While the game is to find it—a turtle amongst hats, a seal amongst cats, a cake amongst houses—the real joy is to identify all of the other objects along the way. Contraire also cleverly hides visual jokes amongst these everyday objects, like making the “undercover” object amongst birds an egg. You get the sense that he’s woven his own personal humor into every nook of the book he could.
At this point, my daughter speaks only a handful of words, but one of them is “dog.” Naturally, her favorite page in this book is the dog page, where we say, “dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, CAT!, dog, dog, dog!” and then she cackles and we repeat the exercise over and over again. This is what reading books as a new parent is: finding delight in familiar objects, shapes, and words through someone else’s new and curious eyes.