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Picture Book Review – What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures



Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis

(Creston Books; $18.99, Ages 3-7)


What Do You See seashell in sand chicken



Junior Library Guild Selection

There are so many terrific books out there and so little time to review them all that occasionally it’s “better late than never” when I share an older book that still merits my attention. Such is the case with What Do You See?: A Conversation in Pictures written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg with photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis. How late is this? Well, Saltzberg’s had another book released since I received this one, and Curtis has won her first Academy Award meaning I couldn’t let another week go by without sharing my thoughts on why this picture book appealed to me.


What Do You See interior art1 dry seaweed
Interior photo by Jamie Lee Curtis from What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures by Barney Saltzberg with Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis, Creston Books ©2022.


I love picture books that spark children’s creativity. Even my own. So when I first found out that real-life friends Barney Saltzberg and Jamie Lee Curtis had collaborated on a picture book, I knew I had to read it. What Do You See? has a simple concept which is explained on the first page. It’s also effectively told in the third person which has a tender quality about it, like watching a friendship grow.

“She took photographs of things she loved and sent them to him.”

“He drew pictures on her photographs of things he saw and sent them back.”

The rest is sheer enjoyment. From Jamie Lee’s photo of a friendly seagull, Barney saw a “friendly monster …”

Sometimes they imagined the same thing: a metal coil becoming a snail. Other times they saw things quite differently. That is what makes each page turn a treat. That is what makes friendship, and life so interesting.


What Do You See interior art2 seaweed becomes fish looking at worm
Interior photo by Jamie Lee Curtis with added art by Barney Saltzberg from What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures by Barney Saltzberg with Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis, Creston Books ©2022.


Best of all, he loved what she saw and photographed and she loved what he drew. They respected their differences and cherished their similarities. “That’s part of what made them friends.” In addition to the delightful photos of fruit, flowers, vegetables, spaghetti, and a friendly seagull included throughout and at the end to prompt children’s imaginations, there’s also an activity guide that provides inspiring, creative crafts, and guides children on how to look at things in everyday life from an imaginative new angle, or via a new lens so to speak.

I got a kick out of the collaborators depicted as parking meter people on the paste-down page at the end. Find more activities on Barney’s YouTube channel. And Jamie Lee is generously donating all proceeds from the book to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles so I hope you’ll get your copy to enjoy and make a difference. If you need your spirits lifted, look no further than What Do You See?

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel



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Never Too Young for Writer’s Block

Debbie Glade shares with us how she can relate to a story about a very young boy with a blank sheet of paper.

Ralph Tells a Story ($16.99, Amazon Children’s Publishing, Ages 6 and up) written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon is a darling little book fit for young Ralph Tells a Story coverreaders, but I found it to be equally as applicable for adult writers like me. I could write volumes about writer’s block. Now wait a minute. That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Ralph’s teacher asks her students to each write a story. But for Ralph, that’s easier said than done. You see, nothing ever happens to Ralph, so he simply cannot think of anything to write about – or at least that’s what he thinks. He wracks his brain, stares at the ceiling, crawls on the floor, and his blank paper just sits there waiting for him to write something on it – anything on it! When Ralph is called to the front of the class by the teacher, all he can do is nervously blurt out, “I was at the park. An inchworm crawled on my knee.” What follows that turns out to be a wonderful solution to Ralph’s writer’s block.


This book teaches young readers that it’s normal to find it challenging to get started writing. Professional writers who have been writing their entire lives experience the writing block monster here and there, and sometimes everywhere. It’s a real live problem all writers know all to well!!! But Ralph’s experience is proof that we can work through that often cruel, frustrating block and create wonderful stories to be read, shared and treasured. You’ll find the simple cartoon-like illustrations to be a delightful addition to the story.

So go ahead and buy a copy of this book for your child, or maybe even the adult in your life who longs to write but fears the wrath of the ugly writer’s block monster.

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