I Can See Just Fine by Eric Barclay
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Eric Barclay REALLY gets the glasses experience and thanks to his charming new picture book, I Can See Just Fine (Abrams/Appleseed 2013) lots of little readers will too! Paige’s teacher realized that Paige is having trouble seeing the blackboard. Others notice vision problems too but Paige stoutly declares, “I can see just fine!” Paige is a little nervous when her mom takes her to visit the eye doctor but Dr. Steiger is really nice and the next pages reassuringly depict what happens during an eye exam. Paige, however, is NOT pleased when he tells her she needs glasses even though picking out frames was lots of fun. Still, Paige is not convinced and it is only on a wonderful two-page spread where she is being fitted with her new glasses that everything comes into focus and Paige says “I can see…everything!”
I love the chunky page-filling illustrations and the solid bright colors. Barclay adds a lot of humorous touches that lighten the mood of the story and it’s fun to see so many bespectacled adults. I especially like the depiction of the eye exam with Paige looking through a phoropter, something I’ve never seen in a children’s book before. (Took me a while to track down the NAME of that machine that I’ve looked through so many times!) The story goes on to show Paige after getting her new glasses and we see that while Paige can now see so much better, she still needs to take care of her glasses AND pay attention – glasses or not.
For children facing the the scary prospect of an eye exam, this book can be not only informative but wonderfully reassuring. For children curious about what needing glasses is like, this provides a through-the-lens view. My favorite parts of this whole book though are the pages reflecting what Paige’s perspective before and as she gets her new glasses. Did I mention that Eric Barclay REALLY gets it? He DOES! I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 9 and I still vividly remember that trip home after getting my glasses. It was astonishing! I didn’t know you could see the traffic light and walk sign on the other corner, or see people’s faces before they were right in front of you! I didn’t know there was a clock on the court house and somehow even colors seemed brighter. Eric Barclay, those of us with myopia salute you!
Cindy: I remember my first trip to the eye doc in 4th grade as well. My parents couldn’t shut me up on the way home. “Look, there are leaves on the trees and they are all different colors!” The clarity with which I could see my world was startling and I’ve never forgotten that day. In the last few years as I’ve struggled again with vision as my eyes age I am not happy. I can’t see just fine anymore and it bothers me!
Barclay exaggerates a bit, as children and parents are both wont to do when they want something of the other. The silly elements like the skunk will make children chuckle (and perhaps talk about other senses besides vision) but the experience of getting an eye exam and selecting frames and awakening to a clearer world are spot on. Thanks, Lynn, for digging up the name “phoropter.” I love the little clicking noises it makes as it is adjusted to diagnose me.
Check out this fun interview with Eric Barclay at Simply Messing About. You can also see his studio and page from this book and some of his other artwork. I love his toaster sculpture.
And is it just me, or does this book remind anyone just a bit of one of my favorite Golden Books, Tommy Visits the Doctor, illustrated by Richard Scarry?