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The Red Book

Written and Illustrated by Barbara Lehman

The Red Book depicts the tale of two children from different lands who magically interact through the pages of the book.


Author/illustrator Barbara Lehman sets the scene, beginning with the title page. Both title page and double-spread frontispiece show the skyscraper-filled, urban setting in which the female protagonist lives. The reader sees the girl walking to school, book bag over her shoulder. She spies a red book caught in a white snowdrift. The girl grabs the book and hurries off to school, where she gets caught up in the book.


The red book's opening page, which we see over the girl's shoulder, shows a map with latitude and longitude lines, ocean and islands. Each succeeding view increases the scale of the map, focusing on one island, then the shoreline, then a boy on the shore.


The book takes up the tale from the boy's viewpoint. Half hidden in the sand, he spots a red book. He unearths the book, opens it, and sees on its opening page the city where the girl lives! Succeeding views mimic previous pages, focusing on first the city, the buildings, then the school, and finally, the girl at school, seated next to a window.


Both female and male protagonists are then captured looking with astonishment over their shoulders, realizing that the red book is giving them a real-time view at someone across the world!


Lehman's creative look at friendship across time and space won for her a Caldecott Honor Medal. Her paintings – "watercolor, gouache, and ink" – speak clearly to the reader, emphasizing the bond of friendship between the two protagonists that exists despite the differences in time, space, culture and environment. The tale is unique, thought-provoking, and absolutely understandable through its pictures.


Lehman, Barbara. 2004. The red book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-42858-5.


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