All About Nothing

Concept picture books about shapes and colors may be kid stuff, but readers of any age can get something out of All About Nothing, a mind-bending, horizons-broadening introduction to negative space by Elizabeth Rusch (Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives), with illustrations by Elizabeth Goss (My Way West).

"What do you know about nothing?" the book begins; an illustration shows a kid inverting a pot and looking at the, well, nothing inside it. "Nothing is the space around and between everything," explains the book's next spread. That's a little heavy, but readers can get a purchase on the idea from the accompanying illustration of an apartment-dwelling kid and cat looking out of their respective windows: both appear in black silhouette, and the flat whiteness around them--bordered by window frames and curtains--shows the negative space. The book continues with its simple explanatory text, some of it with a punning aspect, and elucidating illustrations.

While the younger set may tend to skip back matter, this section is worth the time of anyone who has never before seen Rubin's vase, the ultimate teaching tool for negative space, reproduced here. Additionally, the back matter reports that the art in All About Nothing was made "by cutting paper to highlight positive and negative space." Rusch and Goss serve up some good advice along with their big concept. By encouraging readers to look around--meaning figuratively and literally around objects--All About Nothing doubles as an entreaty to slow down, chill out and take the time to smell the roses and study the clouds. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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