Is it just me, or are there a lot more fancy-schmancy engineered books being created today? By this, I mean pop-up books, books with unusual structures and even books that ask a child to do something that “changes” the book. If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the book trailer of children reading the best-selling Press Here by French author Hervé Tullet.
That was so 2011! But Tullet and others have some captivating new books that will amaze readers and keep them crawling up on their parents’ laps, asking for more.
WORMING YOUR WAY IN
For the youngest book enthusiast, Tullet’s Let’s Play Games board book series is sure to please. My favorite of the newest bunch is The Finger Circus Game. With a hole drilled through the book, the reader’s own fingers (with eye and nose and mouth drawn on if desired) become the “world famous finger worms,” swinging on trapezes, juggling and even putting their little worm heads in a lion’s mouth. One can imagine older children drawing the worms themselves and making up adventures outside of the circus.
A child’s finger becomes part of the action in Herve Tullet’s The Finger Circus Game.
THE WORLD OUTSIDE
For slightly older readers, author-illustrator Lizi Bond creates a child’s world on brown Kraft paper in Inside Outside. The book is a festival of amazing die-cuts that work together to wordlessly tell the story of a boy—inside and outside his home—and show the range of his creativity. The story begins in winter, and the unsuspecting reader might not even notice the cunning die-cuts until she turns the first page. Here we see snow people looking into the boy’s window. With so much to notice—the muted blue and red gouache paintings on the wall, the mittens on the floor, the mice driving the play cars—it’s easy to miss that those are real openings in the page, not just drawings of windows. But, with the page turn, the boy is now outside with the snowmen and the paintings are visible inside that same window.
This homey book is carefully constructed so that each turn of the page brings a real surprise. The pieces fit perfectly and the pacing is gentle. As the seasons change, the boy enjoys the beauty of nature outside—splashing in puddles, planting a garden, raking leaves—and creates art for the walls of his house that reflects what he has experienced. This is a clever book about the child’s need to create and the inspiration that nature can provide. Children will want to turn the pages back and forth again and again—and perhaps grab a piece of their own Kraft paper to see what they can create.
Lizi Bond's Inside Outside uses die-cuts to create windows on the page.
Molly Idle, who spent five years as an animator for DreamWorks Studios before turning to children’s book illustration, brings us another sort of carefully constructed book, using flaps and foldouts to tell the story of Flora, a chubby little girl wearing a pink leotard and a yellow swim hat who wants to be a ballerina. Flora and the Flamingo is a must-have for children who are just learning to dance. Flora’s mentor is one very confident flamingo. At the beginning, we see the flamingo looking straight ahead and Flora imitating him. Bend down the flaps and both dancers look behind them. Flora is wearing swimming flippers, which make her moves appear ungainly, but her spirit is (pardon me) unflappable. The vast amount of white space—the page is just the two dancers with a frame of pink branches—serves as a stage for Flora and her pink friend, for dancing or falling or encouraging. One magnificent gatefold at the end is so joyous that youngsters will want to waltz around the room, just like Flora and the flamingo.
In Molly Idle's Flora and the Flamingo, flaps conceal a second view of the figures.
A RAINBOW OF BOOKS
Open the first page of Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee’s amazing new book, Open This Little Book, and you might be tricked. Is this a book with just two pages? No. Inside the page is a little purple book and inside that is a smaller red and black polka dotted book and inside that is a smaller green book . . . all the way down to a teeny little rainbow book! A giant’s hands are too huge to handle this tiny book, so all the critters who have read the rainbow of books (for that is what the edges of the books have formed) help turn the pages and close all the little books, until “Ladybug closes her little green book . . . You close this little red book . . . and . . . open another!” The final illustration shows all the animals from the little books reading, reading, reading. The grey raindrops from the opening endpages have turned rainbow colored as well! This is a magical book that pays tribute to books and reading in a way that is neither preachy nor silly. Open This Little Book has the feel of an instant classic.
One little book lies inside another in Open This Little Book, written by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee.
Clever paper engineering adds to the appeal of each of these books, drawing children into the stories, or inviting kids to create their own. These kinds of books are intriguing to read and will stand the test of time. It’s a good thing too—they will be requested by children over and over again!
Robin Smith teaches second grade in Nashville. She reviews children's books for several publications and was a member of the 2011 Caldecott Committee.
Watch a demonstration of Flora and The Flamingo.
Watch a trailer for Open This Little Book.