Book Review: Come and Play: Children of Our World Having Fun

comeandplay.jpgCome and Play is a compilation of photographs of children at play from around the world. Each photograph is accompanied by a poem collaboratively written by children in editor Ayana Lowe's cultural art classes in New York City. The photographs are taken from the archives of Magnum Photos, a photo collective of great renown. On a first read, I thought the book charming and fun, but flipping through the large pages, I find myself appreciating each spread anew as I encounter it again. The more I look, the more fascinated I am at how the book conveys its message on so many levels.

One of the first things I noticed about the photographs in this book was that they span a great many years. Some photographs were taken fifty years ago, while some were taken in the past few years. They also span a variety of types of play, from the most familiar (kids dangling from a fence or at the beach), to familiar activities in unfamiliar settings, to portrayals of cultures very different from ours.

Photo compilations like this always have the same fundamental message of unity--that no matter where children live, they laugh and play just like you. Come and Play stands out because it portrays children in wide-ranging types of play, points in time, as well as places around the world. Consciously or not, readers are identifying with these pictures on many levels.

The accompanying poems also work on more than one level. Though they are written by children they still capture so well the spirit of each image. (My favorite is a picture of two boys in Thailand sitting in a boat. One of the boys is reaching to grab the other's straw hat. The accompanying poem reads, "My hat!/No! It's my hat./No! My hat./Don't take my hat./No! No! No!") In some cases, they draw the reader's attention to certain parts of the photograph, or certain emotions, that surprising and unique. That the poems were written by children makes them both more endearing to adult readers and inspiring to young readers.

Come and Play is definitely a good addition to this genre of photo-compilations. There is a lot for both adults and children to appreciate, and it would even benefit from a shared reading, since adults can explain a picture's background information. For example, one beautiful photograph portrays Pablo Picasso with his son. In another, a group of Chinese children are gathered around a makeshift ping pong table in Shanghai in 1980, before the economic boom. I doubt you would find a scene like this in Shanghai now. These pictures are certainly interesting on their own, but with more background information, they become a fascinating starting point for discussion.

Come and Play: Children of Our World Having Fun with poems by children, edited by Ayana Lowe

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Blog Contributors

Renee Ting is the President and Publisher of Shen's Books. She is the author of The Prince's Diary and the blog, Renee's Book of the Day.

Emily Jiang is a writer of children's and YA literature. She also blogs at TLeaf Readings.

Shen’s Books is a publisher of multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.

Through books, we can share a world a stories, building greater understanding and tolerance within our increasingly diverse communities as well as throughout our continuously shrinking globe.


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