Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Who do you want to be today? Two beautiful picture books about people

Posted on | June 7, 2012 | 5 Comments

We’ve recently built streets, and even towns. But they were missing something – some people to bring our buildings to life.

Fortunately, People by Blexbolex recently arrived through our letter box. An extremely stylish compendium of occupations, roles and characters People is a simple, beautiful and eyeopening book.

The success of this book lies partly in the interesting choice and juxtaposition of people (including “A Bad Shot” opposite “A Juggler”, “A Sailor” opposite “A Siren”) and partly in its elegant, muted aesthetic (it comes as no surprise to learn that the original French version of this book, L’Imagier des gens (2008), won “Best Book Design of the World” at the 2009 Leipzig Book Fair).

This is a book for book lovers – an object to hold, stroke and muse upon. It’s a picture book adults will enjoy, but most definitely also one for children; my girls have learned a lot of vocabulary from it (even with only a word or two on each page) eg Punter, Hermit, Tagger, but more importantly, they’ve been inspired by it. It resides with our collection of dressing up clothes and has given them just that extra spark to imagine themselves as all sorts of different people.

We’ve also had in our laps another gorgeous book with the same title: People, but this second book is by Peter Spier.

A book about how people are different and yet similar all around the world, People by Peter Spier is a wonderful celebration of cultural diversity. Its gentle, but powerful message about how our differences make the world a richer place, about how an understanding of these differences supports a more peaceful planet, is a subtext I’m very happy see my kids engaged with.

Click for larger, clearer image

Both People (Blexbolex) and People (Spier) encourage us to look afresh and see what people share, rather than what divides them. Where Blexbolex is bold and simple, Spier is incredibly detailed, with illustrations I’d recommend to anyone who loves Mitsumasa Anno (for the style of drawings) and Where’s Wally (for the act of observation and searching).

Click for larger, clearer image

If you and your kids loved You Choose! by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharrat but are now a bit older, then People by Peter Spier will hit a similar spot, with its jam packed pages with lots to choose from and different journeys to take.

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Using wooden blanks (these from Baker Ross- they’re currently on offer) we made a couple of sets of people to play with.

The first family were decorated using permanent markers (Sharpies).

The second family were decorated with scraps of wool, fabric, buttons and googly eyes. Googly eyes are like fairy dust. They just transform anything. (Check out Eyebombing if you don’t know what I’m on about!)

Here they are, all lined up ready to go to a party…

Whilst making our people we listened to:

  • Shiny Happy People by REM (and in this version, the Muppet Rockers from Sesame Street)
  • Great People! by Adam and the Couch Potatoes
  • Too Many People in a Little House by Steve Blunt & Friends


  • Other activities which would work well with reading People and People include:

  • Making people out of an incomplete set of playing cards, just like Se7en did.
  • Investigating national costumes around the world – I particularly like this post from Science@Home where she shows what you can learn about climate and location by looking closely at traditional clothes.
  • Creating these wood burned doll blocks like Joel did – simple and beautiful!

  • Disclosure: People by Blexbolex was provided to me by the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    5 Responses to “Who do you want to be today? Two beautiful picture books about people”

    1. Polly
      June 7th, 2012 @ 8:27 am

      oh oh oh! Straight off to Baker Ross for me Right Now- those people are just lovely. and we DO love ‘You Choose’ and we are getting older- so more money to spend. (and books in with the dressing up clothes another TOP idea)
      Polly recently posted..Toucans and shameless hat showing off

    2. Zoe
      June 7th, 2012 @ 9:17 am

      Hi Polly, the wooden dolls are just perfect for holding in little hands – I’m sure you’ll enjoy them! Did you know there is going to be a follow up to You Choose this summer? “You Imagine” – can’t wait! Yes, book in with dressing up has worked brilliantly :)
      Zoe recently posted..Who do you want to be today? Two beautiful picture books about people

    3. Elli
      June 7th, 2012 @ 9:36 am

      I grew up with Dr Seuss’s ‘Come Over to My House’ about children round the world and their various houses (Seuss originally used a different pen name for it, so it’s not as widely known as his other work). Although it’s rooted very firmly in stereotypes – the Africans in their grass huts with ostriches roaming outside, the Chinese on their houseboats eating rice with chopsticks – the message is a direct challenge to racist ideas; that however different people appear, and however different their houses, people can all be friends. I loved it when I was little, perhaps even more than Cat in the Hat and the other Seuss classics, and Child4 went through a stage of it being his favourite book too. Unfortunately it’s been reissued with new illustrations which aren’t nearly as good as the original ones – so glad I’ve still got my childhood edition.
      Elli recently posted..The Hip-Hop Hippo

    4. Jen
      June 8th, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

      I love the little people you made!

      Thanks for reminding me of Shiny Happy People, I introduced it to my kids today and it was a big hit!
      Jen recently posted..Armchair BEA – Ask the Experts

    5. The show must go on | {d}omestic drama, {d}esign and everyday {d}iscoveries
      November 5th, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

      [...] – Some books that I feel will help my children are  My happy life and People. [...]

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