Increasingly, becoming literate includes becoming able to ‘read’ pictures and images as well as written text. Margaret Mallett introduces Big Picture Press, a new imprint from Templar Publishing which aims to offer books that are ‘visually intelligent’.
When I opened my package of books from Big Picture Press I turned first to Welcome To Mamoko, not least because of the arresting collage of characters on the cover. In large portrait format, this fine tome has strong, thick pages which will stand up to the vigorous use it is likely to get. The first double spread introduces us to twenty five characters whose fascinating adventures we are about to follow. Children will be entertained by the characters’ playful names – Claude Wan Clue and Lionel Mane for example. It took me a little while to seek out the trajectory of each character and to find where the stories of some of them connect. But children from about age five – used to graphic stories, comics and i-pad games – would get there much faster and talk through the stories in their own way. Not only is this a hugely entertaining book, it also encourages careful scrutiny of pictures and helps young learners to develop the ability to use visual cues to answer questions and to foster imaginative verbal story telling. The book, which is large enough for two or three children to share, would be a splendid resource for drama and English lessons
Essentially interactive, Walk This World is a visual treat with beautifully designed pages with some digitally achieved images – showing that paper books can benefit from new technologies. The double spreads open to reveal townscapes with interesting buildings made dynamic by people walking, running, dancing, working and enjoying leisure time. The young reader is invited to journey for one day through ‘the global village’. And so each double spread in this wide landscape book explores a place and a culture. The journey starts in America in the early morning when work has already started for some people and the day is coming alive. It ends in the same American city just as it darkens into night time. The countries are not named but readers are kept alert by decoding clues: flags, food, jobs, leisure pursuits and signs on shops and buildings all help. The many flaps to be lifted show the insides of buildings, homes, underground scenes and shops. Words on notices and shop fronts also help – the distinctive script in the Japanese cityscape and ‘Fleuriste’ and ‘Fromage’ indicating France. The countries and their cultures seem diverse but the thoughtful message is that : ‘though we might look different, underneath we are all the same’. Lots of
potential here for children to search for more information about the countries shown and to do their own drawings and writing- perhaps in the role of some of the people shown.
Accessorize is much more than a mainstream sticker or colouring book. It encourages young learners to combine both activities and to use their own developing design abilities. I love the cover design: there are dozens of colourful Craig-Martin-like drawings of tiny objects like hats, bags, shoes, rings and other accessories. Inside there are sixteen pull out ‘art cards’ which you can colour, design and decorate with some of the 600 stickers provided. The contemporary designer who has created the book urges ‘whatever you do, make it your own’. So young artists are free to add their own drawings to the cards. And there are pinholes to hang up and display each completed picture card. I can imagine a group of children from about 8 to 12, probably girls, enjoying the activities in an art lesson or at a party.
The Goods By McSweeney’s is a huge book packed with jokes, comic strip, mazes and puzzles of every possible kind. It benefits from the contributions of a number of imaginative illustrators of children’s books and each page is interestingly designed . It has some post-modern moments and pushes at the boundaries of the conventions followed in main stream children’s activity books – for example there is a quiz to judge if ‘your parents are aliens’. This is why I think it will have great appeal for some children, particularly boys of about age nine to thirteen, who will like the deliciously subversive humour . My favourite puzzle is the Angry Avianautics where the reader is asked to find the one cheery bird from amongst a large number of ‘cranky’ ones. There ‘s a hilarious version of the familiar ‘Spot the Difference’ game- the image shows twin ice cream cones riding motorcycles. The games and many art activities encourage creativity and playfulness and this is a book to enjoy at home or on a journey – preferably away from adults
The fact that the paper book has the potential to stun as a work of art is exploited in these books. Many digital texts are highly interactive – but these books show that print creations can compete .
Welcome to Mamoko, Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, 16pp, 978-1-84877-555-8, £12.99, hbk (5+)
Walk This World, Lotta Nieminen (illustrator) Jenny Broom (words), 24pp , 9-781-84877-824-5, £14 hbk (5+)
Accessorize, Hennie Haworth, 72 pp, 978-1-84877-902-0, £12.99 pbk. (8+)
The Goods By McSweeney’s : Games and Activities for Big Kids, Little Kids and Medium-Size Kids, Mac Barnett and Brian McMullen, 44 pp, 978-1-84877-508-4, £16.99 pbk. (9+)
Margaret Mallett is a member of the team that edits the English Association’s English 4-11 journal.