Format: Picture book
Author and illustrator: Hervé Tullet
Publisher: Chronicle Books (published Jauary 2011)
It’s unusual for a truly unique idea to hit the children’s publishing world. In Press Here, art-director-turned-kids’-book-author Hervé Tullet has combined the format of the book with something entirely new: beginning with just one yellow dot in the middle of the page and the inviting word “Ready?,” this book takes the reader on a jaunt through a magical world of dots that move, shake, grow, slide — all while remaining entirely static on the page. The reader is invited to press, tap, and rub the dots, to tilt and shake the book, to blow the dots into place, to clap, and otherwise affect what happens on each page as the dots change.
Press Here may have been the foundation of a new genre of “interactive” children’s books that have followed in its wake, such as Tap to Play and Tap the Magic Tree. In this case, however, imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery since the new books provide a fun new way to enjoy reading for kids — and the people who read to them. (Little E and I always laugh when we shake the book together.) If you haven’t tried one of the books in this field, check your local library. Press Here, the book that kicked the movement off, is a great place to start.
Parental advisory: Press Here ends with an invitation to read the book again from the beginning. Seasoned bedtime story readers will know that this can be an inescapable trap. The book is unendingly charming for little ones, but the charm can wear thin for grown-ups after seventeen or eighteen readings. Consider yourselves warned.
Format: Board book
Author and illustrator: Janik Coat
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (May 2012)
Here is a book your graphic design friends will love, your word nerd friends will go bananas for, and your kids might even enjoy.
Many of us have several books about opposites in our kiddos’ libraries: Sandra Boynton’s Opposites is a classic, but you could fill an Ikea Billy bookshelf with the range of opposite books available at any big ole box bookstore. Here’s one that’s a little different. Author and illustrator Janik Coat presents us with a simple, red, boldly illustrated hippopotamus on each page, corresponding to his opposite on the facing page. The opposite pairs work well together, often with a touch of humour: the light hippopotamus is floating away in a hot air balloon, while the heavy hippopotamus sinks to the bottom of the ocean. There are innovative tactile experiences to enjoy on many of the pages — feel the difference between soft and rough with plush and burlap — and no assumptions are made about the young reader’s ability, or more precisely lack of ability, to grasp more complex words (there’s an opaque/transparent pair and an invisible/visible pair). Some of the pages will work better for the parent than for the child they might be reading to: the front/side pair shows that the one-dimensional hippopotamus is reduced to a single line when he turns sideways. But if you’re tired of reading “high and low, fast and slow,” give this book a try and you’ll find yourself reading and explaining more interesting concepts like “clear and blurry” and “positive and negative.” The design is very modern and should appeal to hipster parents everywhere.