A new picture book from Bob Graham is always a treat and this is no exception. As always with Graham, the narrative is both simple and subtle. Silver Buttons takes one moment in time and details individual actions that take place within those sixty seconds: there’s Jodie, finishing her picture; there’s a tanker leaving New York; back at home baby Jonathan takes his first step. All this is conveyed with economy not just of words, but of illustration.
It is the detail – and Graham’s beautifully expressive line – that is the essence of this book. From the opening endpaper with a feather floating to earth to the final endpaper where it has landed, the artist’s eye is unerring. Each action or event is presented separately, placed precisely on the page. It is in shifting use of perspective that the drama is created: the reader looks down on the scene, a bird’s eye view that moves ever higher. Then we swoop back to earth for another happening in a widening circle. The really important event – Jonathan’s first step – is emphasised not just by the way Graham has chosen to show the baby, dominating his page, but also in the text. Everything else happens in the space between his standing up and falling down. All is drawn to a satisfying conclusion as neat as the final button Jodie adds to her picture.
Graham’s economy of line, his use of colour, the precision with which the images inhabit their pages all combine to create an outstanding book where words and pictures and the spaces between work perfectly.