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Reflections of a Solitary Hamster

25 Jul

This is another one of the books Vida Kelly worked on and brought in to show us when she spoke to our class. It’s also one of the Gecko Press books that Julia Marshall spoke about.

I’ve included it here because I found it really interesting when Vida talked about the aspects of fitting the translated text into the speech bubbles. It was originally written in French so obviously had to be translated into English and, once this was done, the new text had to be fitted into the existing speech bubbles. As Julia pointed out, Gecko preserve the original look and feel of the books they publish, changing only endpaper colour and other small details to ensure that the books are high-quality productions. This means that the illustrations need to be kept as are … but with translated text, the translation can often be a lot longer than the original, posing a spacing issue in a book like this.

So, even though Vida had a very specific model to work on (the original book), it didn’t necessarily make the job any easier. She said that it was a really time-consuming process hand-writing out all the new sentences and fitting them into to the speech bubbles in an unobtrusive way.

I think the evidence that this was a success lies in the fact that when you read the book, you don’t notice the text as being ‘out-of-place’. In fact, you don’t notice it at all. Which I think is really something that so many people have pointed out with book design: you don’t necessarily notice good design, because it should fit seamlessly in with the book as a whole.


The Gruffalo’s Child

23 Jul

This is another one of the books brought in by Vida Kelly and I’ve included it for the same reasons as I included Wolves: I think it’s an excellent example of the harmony between image and text that’s so important in picture books. Again, there’s only a manageable amount of text on page and it’s worked neatly into spaces provided by the illustration. It’s really obvious that the pictures and the text have been designed in keeping with each other.


15 Jul

Read an interview with Emily Gravett about Wolves on the Pan MacMillan website. Read another interview with Emily on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Visit Emily Gravett’s website to look inside Wolves and her other books.

Vida Kelly brought this book in to show us when she spoke to our class about children’s book design. She used it as an example of a book where she, as designer, hadn’t actually had to do too much work because the author and illustrator, Emily Gravett, already had such a good awareness of designing a picture book.

It’s a really awesome book. Firstly, it has this whole book-within-a-book thing going on that is illustrated by the pictures: as the little rabbit reads, you read over his shoulder. Sometimes the text of the story is that of the Rabbit’s library book (shown by including it on the book in the illustrations) and sometimes it’s the text of the story in your hands, in which case it’s off to the side. There’s never too much text on the page and I think that this is an excellent example of illustration and text fitting in and working together really effectively (which is obviously so important in a picture book).

I couldn’t get an image of the endpapers of this book but they were great too: very scrapbooky with the library card and other things.

Beatrix Potter Books

20 May

As with the My Little Golden Books, these books are a throwback to my childhood. The Tale of Tom Kitten was my favourite book when I was too little to read myself (but I insisted it be read to me so often that I ended up learning it word-for-word by heart anyway) and I still have a Peter Rabbit soft toy on my bed. But that has nothing to do with their design.

I’ve included them for the same reasons (again, aside from nostalgia) as I did the My Little Golden Books. They’re all designed according to a very recognisable template: you look at the cover of one, with its quaint little illustration, times new roman-y font and abundance of white background, and you know who it’s by. You know that it’s one of the Beatrix Potter collection. Each book has its own story, but in appearance and design they are all essentially same … and they haven’t even changed much from their first editions, as you can see with The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle I’ve included.

One thing I particularly like about the Beatrix Potter books is their endpapers. They reinforce that collection idea by including characters from all of her books (not just the one in your hands), and they’re the same in each book. They’re very pretty and I can remember enjoying pointing out and naming each character when I used to read these books. I’m a big fan of detail and of putting extra space to good use, so I do like to see interesting endpapers.