Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Book Review: “Om Sapphire” by Charlotte O’Neil
Charlotte O’Neil has done what no other author has done: made me want to read her book on no other device but a black-and-white Kindle, in my case my Kindle Keyboard. I say “read” advisedly because there’s nothing to read—it’s a picture book—once you get past the publishing text at the beginning… and past the instructions.
Ah, yes, the instructions. “Turn device sideways” she says, with a big looping arrow. Why? Because the entire book is a collection of pictures—75 of them, plus the cover, drawn with pen and India ink—that are all sized to exactly fit the screen of an e-ink Kindle, but they’re all done in horizontal format (in the graphics realm it’s called “landscape” format) so how do you view them? You turn the device sideways! What else?
And, you know what? It works. The black-ink-on-white-paper technique is perfect for the black-and-white screen that the majority of Kindle devices out there have. And the landscape format is great. It fills the screen with a single image and makes for one picture per page turn. I suspect that the way that her format ratio fits the Kindle screen may have been a little bit of serendipity (she says in her introduction that she used at various times A3, A4, and letter-sized sheets for the drawings) but I don’t care if it was that or if it was carefully planned. It just all fits together.
There is a con to all of these pro’s… the coding of the book is imperfect, which means that every other page turn is quite slow, but that’s a minor problem that could be easily fixed. (She should contact me.)
Her drawing style is interesting, and seems somehow more and more familiar the longer you look at it. Then it strikes you: these look like very elaborate versions of the stream-of-consciousness drawings that one makes when sitting in the back of a very boring class in school—one pen, one line width, one sheet of paper, many disparate images poring out onto the page—except these look like they were made by someone who is a better artist than the average high school or college student (she is, in fact, a mature woman with three children), and, as she says in her introduction, each drawing took about three weeks to complete.
It matters not if you like her drawings or her technique. Every budding picture-book author should get this book and study it. (It’s free, for today at least!) This is an important example of the true potential of a picture book specifically designed for the black-and-white Kindle platform. It could, in fact, be close to a perfect Kindle picture book.