I Wish I Had.... 2013, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
In this beautifully illustrated and written picture book, a narrator tells the readers of their desire to have attributes specific to different animals. By taking this approach to looking at some of the qualities animals possess, the author manages to teach its reader about several different animals, as well as their habitats and practices. For instance, Zoboli writes, "I wish I had the tail of a lemur to swing through the maze of branches..." (p.9) and "I wish I had the eyes of a blackbird to see every blade of grass growing in the meadow..." (p. 1).
Zoboli devotes two pages to each of the thirteen animals she highlights. She wrote in a pattern that introduced two animals within each sentence in the form of, "I wish I had the (attribute) of a(n) (animal)...and the (second attribute) of a(n) (second animal). Her writing style is very descriptive and contains a lot of imagery that only adds to the bold illustrations. For example, Zoboli writes, "I wish I had the night-black coat of a panther as it slips through the darkness...and the far-reaching gaze of an owl, light as a ghost," (pps. 19-21). Some of the descriptive phrases are rather dense and poetic, but this could serve as an introduction to symbolic writing styles for more advanced readers.
The illustrations created by Mulazzani are incredibly intricate and bold. Relying on a combination of paint and pen, she creates vibrant illustrations with texture and depth. Possibly the most effective illustration in developing the story is of the whale "singing as it crosses the wide ocean," (pps. 15-16). The majority of the background is varying and textured shades of blue, with a row of houses and trees on the horizon in order to establish a scale upon which the reader may compare the size of the whale that is covering the majority of the page. The large whale is covered in intricate and attention-grabbing pen drawings of various animals and plants.
To the reader, it may appear as if this book meets its artistic goals more than its educational goals; while there are some specific details relating to each animal, the dense and poetic writing style limits some of the clarity of the book. This book was originally published in Italian and therefore the translation process may have robbed this book of some of its straightforward nature. There is no attempt to define the narrator, which does not allow students the ability to connect to a character. There is also no conflict, climax, or resolution within this story to provide its reader with an engaging story line. Lastly, there is a giraffe featured on the front cover and "I wish I had the towering neck of a giraffe to reach up into the clouds" on the back cover, but the giraffe does not appear with the book, which is a bit misleading. However, the illustrations and poetic writing style create a beautiful work of art that provides its readers with engaging artwork and an introduction to descriptive language, symbolism, and metaphors.
Recommended for ages 2-9
Katherine Franklin, BGSU student