Winner of the Connecticut Book Award!


A New Look at Opposites

Illustrated by Jay Fleck

Candlewick Studio

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7291-1

Do you know opposites, yes or no? On. Off. Asleep. Awake. Opposites are a piece of cake...right? Not so fast! Time for a quick double take. Who knows what is BIG unless there is SMALL? Does SHORT mean a thing except next to TALL? What is ABOVE and what is BELOW? The answer depends on who wants to know! DOUBLE TAKE leads readers on a topsy-turvy fun-house journey into the concept of opposites and takes it to the next level—with detours into relative terms and points of view (with a dollop of yin and yang for good measure).



"...the spotlight is on the words — or play of words. ... As the wordplay gets more complex the pictures must exert more effort and ingenuity to make sense of it. The result is uniquely offbeat, and wildly whimiscal. ... It begins simply enough, with Jay Fleck's expert combinations showing the difference between left and right, asleep and awake. But the concept soon shifts, from basic opposites to explaining what makes an opposite an opposite. Scale, perspective and point of view all come into play. Hood's rhyming prose gradually builds to a scene of a wild roller coaster ride, where she asks the reader to "do a quick double take." Fleck's picture shows the cat tied to a helium balloon, but the cat is above and the balloon is below—a clue that proves that the right-side-up book is now upside down. It's a satisfying highlight to a stimulating book." 

—Jon Agee

A young boy, a black cat, and a blue elephant creatively demonstrate the concept of opposites. While standing on a street corner, the trio starts with some basic opposites, demonstrating yes versus nostop versus goleft versus right, and open versus closed. The boy’s wagon and a hammock help them show in versus out and asleep versus awake. They explain that contrasting items may be dependent on each other—there is no short without tall. The relativeness of opposites is demonstrated with examples like weak (the boy) versus strong (the elephant), reexamined when a whale shows up, making the elephant look weak in comparison. The brief rhyming text sets a playful tone, which is heightened by the cartoon-style digital illustrations. The pages feature uncluttered and alluring venues in a limited assortment of soft colors, populated mostly with appealing animals that help the trio demonstrate the various concepts. While some notions may be confusing for younger ones, the simplicity and humorous touches make this engaging, useful, and fun—a winning combination.  

— Randall Enos

A white child, a black cat, and a friendly blue elephant give a fresh new twist to the concept of opposites. Humorous vignettes in a flat, limited color palette show the elephant “IN” the cart and falling “OUT!” of the cart; “ASLEEP” in the hammock, then suddenly “AWAKE!” when a balloon bursts; sitting with boy and cat during the color-saturated day, and, in a mirror image, their black-and-white silhouette at night. Type placement and illustrations are carefully coordinated to demonstrate relative points of view: a plane in the sky can appear to be below a car on a hill; the hare is only “FAST” in comparison with the tortoise, which is “S L O W .” The elephant appears to be the strongest in the picture—until readers realize it is standing on an enormous whale. Readers are encouraged not to take things at first glance: an abstract composition of colored circles turns into a huge painting of a butterfly when viewed from a distance. “What is ABOVE / and what is BELOW?”—it all depends on one’s perspective. “Turn things around! Give them a twist. / FIND a new view / that you might have MISSED!” The elephant and the child in a boat turn to face the land and see a beautiful urban landscape lit by the setting sun. Ideal for the thoughtful, deliberative child. (Picture book. 3-5)


I’m about to teach a Summer graduate course, all about picture books, for the University of Tennessee, and I plan to kick it off with the usual request of my students: please try to go beyond merely “cute” to describe the picture books you’ll read this summer.That’s because a good children’s book is way more than that inexact qualifier. “Cute” communicates little, especially for books that dive deep beyond the adorable characters that may adorn their pages.


This book’s very sub-title tells you what you’re in for: a new look at opposites. This is exciting, given that the world of children’s literature hardly hankers for some more concept books about opposites. But this one is refreshing, indeed.


All truth is relative to the individual, right? In this rhyming book, readers are reminded on the first few spreads that opposites are typically thought of as black and white things: “If I stay STOP, you say GO. If I say LEFT, you say RIGHT!” But then author and illustrator pivot and invite us into the world of relativism – with illustrator Jay Fleck often carrying the weight of communicating the meaning. “Does SHORT measure up except next to TALL?” asks Hood. Here, Fleck illustrates a small, short dog next to a larger, taller Dalmatian. Yet they both stand next to a high-rise building, where through a window we see a giraffe. That Dalmatian suddenly isn’t so tall. And so it goes. “A racer’s called FAST when rivals are SLOW.” On this page, we see a rabbit in the lead, followed by a tortoise. Well, of course we know who is faster. But look behind the tortoise to see a snail. Well, now that tortoise seems pretty zippy-quick.


It’s a thought-provoking book that will prompt questions for child readers about perspective and point of view. The answers to many questions in life, Hood seems to be saying, depend on “who wants to know.” That’s a powerful notion for children, particularly at the me-me-me stage of development. 

—Julie Danielson in a post called "Digging Deep."

PreS-Gr 2 –A clever young boy, his small black cat, and a gentle blue elephant set off on an adventure to explore opposites in this wonderful concept book with a twist. The trio begin with some basic pairs, such as “yes and no” and “asleep and awake,” but then explain that “not every duo is so black and white.” Readers are presented with opposites that may seem simple but whose meanings can change depending on the situation. We see how relative words such as near and far and big and small can be, and the team suggest that “who’s strong and who’s weak is hardly perplexing. But strong can look weak when a new champ is flexing.” Through rhyming text, this unassuming picture book clearly conveys the concept of perspective (“where you are can affect what you see”) and advises readers to “consider all sides”: a powerful and timely message. The classic sans serif black font injects some fun into the retro-style digital illustrations. VERDICT Charming details make this book a pleasure to revisit. Highly recommended for school and classroom libraries. 


–Whitney LeBlanc, KIPP New Orleans Schools, LA