KidLit / Reviews

(Im)perfect Square

At Booked for the Evening this past week, Carla Petersen Larsen, media specialist at Red Rock Elementary and St. Kate’s alum, introduced a lot of picture books. This is one of them, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall.
New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011.
ISBN 978-0-06-191513-0

If you’ve watched the video embedded here, you’ve essentially read the first few pages of “Perfect Square,” which follows the life of a square. Whether or not it is perfect, or in what way it is perfect, is up for interpretation.

The book sets up a pattern for the reader:

  • something happens to the square which modifies its appearance (ripping, cutting, hole-punching, crumpling – although it is never explicitly stated in the text, it certainly seems like a paper square)
  • the square makes itself into something beautiful, embracing the changes made to its physical appearance

That’s all very interesting, yes? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how you’re reading it.


What I find engaging about this book is the implications made about the square’s many facets. As an adult reader, at first I found myself confused by how the square could be cut up and hole punched and then the next day begin whole again, only to be torn to pieces. (Overthinking it? Yes.)

There is a renewal that happens through each phase of life the square goes through, and each time, the square begins whole – or so it seems.

The square also changes color over time. It begins as a red square on Monday, and each day, it shifts, to orange to green, et cetera. These color shifts happen slowly, so they feel natural to the reader, and probably to the square itself. The seemingly simple art of “Perfect Square” is more complex than it seems at first glance. The square, even when seemingly untouched, is never one solid color. If the square were a person, he or she would not be airbrushed.

On Sunday, nothing happens. Remaining “perfect” or whole, with four equal sides turns out to be “confining,” “rigid and cramped.” So the square decides to become a window (and here is the first time we see the colors used in the book combined) which views all of the things the square has been, but now each iteration is related to the others.

The “whole” square, it seems, was not perfect when it began at the beginning of the book. At the end of the book, then it is perfect. Then it is whole.

Who would have thought that a book about a SQUARE could teach children about accepting change, accepting all parts of self?

In short: what changes us is what makes us. What makes us “perfect” are our imperfections.

Additional comment for literary geeks only

AND due to the fact that the book is square-shaped and that the squares seem to be paper – dare I say pages? – this book could be interpreted as a comment on books and/or readers

  • how they make readers grow
  • and how readers enrich a text through multiple interpretations

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