Lynn: We noticed a delightful coincidence as we’ve unpacked some wonderful publisher deliveries lately – a trio of really terrific books about opposites. They are an interesting mix too including a board book, a pop-up and beautiful picture book. First up is Petr Horacek’s Animal Opposites: A Pop-Up Book that has already by field-tested on the youngest member of our focus group. Horacek uses clear but imaginative examples from the animal world to illustrate the concept of opposites such as short dog and tall giraffe, still sloth and bouncy kangaroo. He has also selected bright colors and sharp contrasting backgrounds on the opposing pages.. A white background changes to bright orange for weak mouse and strong gorilla. The feature that will be most pleasing to both parents and library purchasers though is the sturdy design that will keep the book functioning for a long long time. Instead of the fragile levers or wheels used in many pop-ups, Horacek’s design is for the pop-up to be activated by the turn of page. Clever, effective in helping to emphasize the concept and strong, this is a wonderful design element for its audience. Only one of the pages is a bit vulnerable to small hands and that is the last, featuring a clever fold-up elephant. Each reveal is carefully designed to delight and illustrate the concept and some of them elicit ooh’s and aah’s like the page with the white goose that opens to a gorgeous colorful peacock. Henry adored this book and it was with great difficulty that I packed it up to bring home.
Cindy: It’s rare for me to get excited about a board book, but when I see something special it’s very fun. Xavier Deneux has a new board book series called TouchThinkLearn that is a cool concept. I’m going to talk about Opposites (Chronicle 2013) but the series also includes Colors with two more coming in Spring 2014: Shapes and Numbers. Each two page spread features a pair of opposites but the left side page has a raised die cut shape and the right hand side has a mirrored scooped out shape. For instance High/Low features a ladder with a kitty up high and little fingers can trace around the rungs and sides of the ladder and the kitty. The opposing page features a cut out hole in the ground with a mole down low. Again, fingers can trace the recessed shape of the hole and when the page is turned or the book is closed, the two shapes nest together. Some shapes are identical, others play off each other and children will enjoy examining the differences and figuring out how the raised parts fit in the recessed hole. These books will get lots of wear with busy fingers but they will stand up to the sensory learning just fine. I couldn’t resist them myself!
Lynn: The last in our trio is Opposites (Lemniscaat 2013) by Ingrid & Dieter Schubert. This exploration of the concept is for an older audience than the previous two, readers who are already on firm ground with the idea of opposites, and ready to play with the concepts which are presented here in a more complex way. The book is large in size and the design is of colorful two-page spreads, exploring opposing concepts like hot and cold or brave and scared. The pages are scattered with many small charming illustrations of animals in humorous tableau. “Naughty” shows an elephant’s trunk poised over a barrel of water, one frog in a life preserver balanced on the tip of the truck with another frog racing up behind clearly intending to push the first frog into the water. On the opposing “Nice” page a hippo gets ready to catch a pig sliding down a lowered giraffe’s neck. Each page requires careful looking and time to examine all the small and often subtle examples. The charming details reward repeated reading making this a wonderful book for a child with a longer attention span ready for independent time with a book.