I think illustrators are often forgotten in the world of books – especially children’s books. They are really the heroes though, aren’t they? A great kids book without amazing illustrations would fade from memory pretty quickly, so I have been trying to make a real effort to pay attention to the illustrators of the books we love.
My daughter turned one a few weeks ago and one of her favourite activities is ‘reading’ books. When we opened a package containing two books, she immediately toddled over to me and grabbed one of the two books in our parcel. The books are Time For Bed and Honk Honk! Baa Baa! by Petr Horacek.
The books are perfect for little ones because they are made from a hard board, so they can withstand quite a lot of baby-abuse. They also have bright and fun colours and images without being garish or overwhelming.
They’re called ‘flip-flap’ books, which I find a bit odd as that leads you to believe there are liftable pages and pieces, but actually all it means is that each page is cut off a little, making each page is shorter than the next. It all culminates in the final page being a picture that includes the extra bit of all the pages, so for example in the Time For Bed story, the final page sees the little boy tucked up in bed with the extra space on the pages making up a colourful blanket.
In the Honk Honk! Baa Baa! book, the final page makes up a lovely black and white cow.
The stories aren’t really stories. They’re typical baby book one-liners but it’s quite nice because you’re able to embellish or add to the story as you go.
While these are baby books, my toddler has listened in intently when we’ve ‘read’ them, and has enjoyed them too, especially making the sounds of the animals. The Time For Bed book has been great for underpinning the bed time routine too: we play,we eat, we bath etc.
I love books that support or explain things we’re doing or trying to teach. Of course it should be fun for the children, but if they’re subtly learning, then all the better. These books are inexpensive, great quality and lovely, and particularly ideal as first birthday, pre-speaking books, ideal for lending itself to creating conversations about the pictures.
My current favourite from Petr Horacek though, is Animal Opposites.
If books could be minimalist, this would be that.
The whole books is only 20 pages, and has 41 words in it. The book is an exciting unfolding adventure with each page and my baby, toddler and I were all gripped and excited from the very first page.
The first double page spread starts with a picture of a sausage dog on the left, with the words ‘short sausage dog’ and the opposite page folds out upwards to two A4 pages with a ‘tall giraffe’. The next page is a quiet rabbit, which folds out sideways to a ‘loud lion’ in 3D with an opening jaw and everything. (There’s no sound, just words and pictures, and it’s amazing.)
One of the pages has a ‘still sloth’ and it’s opposite is a ‘bouncy kangaroo’ which actually looks like it’s bouncing as you open it’s fold-out page.
The book goes on with opposites like a heavy hippo and a light butterfly, smooth frog and prickly porcupine and so on, and the final page unveils a magnificent peacock.
For a simple book it is really stunning. It captures my children’s attention every time we open it, and even though they know by now what’s coming, it still gets ‘wow’s’.
It would make a gorgeous gift, I think, although I’m really struggling to say what age group for because as I said, it excites me as much as it does my children!