What If?
What If
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Laura Vaccaro Seeger
ISBN 9781596433984
Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, 2010.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: exclusion friendship inclusion laura-vaccaro-seeger what

What If?
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Your child will be able to recognize the emotions of at least one of the seals in this picture book—and possibly all three. It is a familiar beach scene in which two seal friends are playing and a third seal comes along. Do you go off and play with the new arrival? Do you keep playing with the friend you were playing with before, and leave out the third? Or do you invite the third to play with you and your friend?

With just six words, Laura Vaccaro Seeger creates three deceptively simple scenes in which these three situations play out. A wordless scene before the title page depicts the boy from the cover kicking a beach ball into the ocean. Two seals in a window-pane view of four panel illustrations play with the ball until it lands on the sand. One goes to get it, and that’s when a third seal enters the story. Seeger makes no judgment about the three seals’ decisions. Instead, she shows the expression of the seal that’s left out—an expression of disappointment and perhaps a twinge of shock that he or she is so easily forgotten. Every child will recognize that look that expresses the feeling of being unwanted. In the third scenario, when the trio of seals heads off together, there’s a sense of quiet triumph. This highly visual story shows even youngest children that they have a choice to include or exclude others, and asks them to put themselves in the position of the child who’s left out. Seeger leaves readers with one more treat to discover: As with her Caldecott Honor book First the Egg, when children remove the book’s dust jacket, yet another “What If?” option is revealed. Seeger ingeniously demonstrates to children that actions speak louder than words.

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