Round and Round and Square, written by graphic and toy designer Fredun Shapur, was first published in 1965 and it quickly became a classic bedtime story. It takes the form of a simple, clean graphic narrative with appeal to pre-readers and adults alike.
It tells the story of a circle and a square that play together, encompassing a child’s world with the use of just four colours and two simple shapes. Through the use of rotation, translation and transformation, the two basic shapes become houses and high buildings; churches with beautiful windows; train coaches travelling up and down hill, over bridges and to far off places. They become toys and create new friends, before the hot sun sets and the cool moon brings their day to an end. The final opening bursts onto your visual field, offering a cornucopia of shapes and patterns representing starbursts.
While the images of churches, tractors, rocking horses and toy boats are dated and their cultural references not relevant to a 21st-century pluralistic society, the book nonetheless presents a beautiful, imaginative narrative. Grandparents who want to take a nostalgic look back to their own childhoods could set the images in context.
The strength and wider appeal of the book is in the way it reaches beyond narrative to become an early introduction to design, geometry and the properties of shape. As such, it would spark the imagination of any child, prompting them to explore shapes and create images from their own contemporary culture. For this reason alone, I would recommend it for any pre-readers, with the caution that the relevance of cultural references to audience does need to be considered.