Award winning invisible magic

posted in: Katje Kamm | 12

My blogging goals this year are twofold (1) to play a more active part in the online, book-celebrating community I so value and (2) to work on a more creative diet when it comes to playing and exploring with my kids. To help me with my first goal, I’m taking part in Gathering Books’ Award Winning Book Challenge throughout the course of 2012 (it’s not too late for you to join!), and today I bring you my first offering – a review of Invisible by Katja Kamm – Winner of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for best picture book in 2003.

Invisible is a wordless book about an afternoon spent in a seaside town full of interesting characters. Not only will you smile at the Kamm’s observations about the rich panoply of life, from nuns to peeing dogs, you’ll enjoy the tricks the pictures play on your eye; on each spread something appears invisible because it blends in with the background colour. Only the negative shape left behind gives a clue as to what has become invisible, and so it becomes a game to see if you can work out what that is before you turn the page.

The illusions are clever and witty, and the bright, bold, saturated colours give this book a fresh feel. The game is fun even (or perhaps especially) once you know what’s going on – there’s something delightful about being tricked, about falling for the illusion (in this way it reminded me a little of Tullet’s much acclaimed Press Here).

Image copyright: Katja Kamm

This spunky book might not appeal to everyone. There’s nudity (well, invisible nudity…), buxom punks, as well as an anatomically correct male dog doing what dogs like best to do on the pavement, and I do feel uncomfortable about the scene where the nuns are frightened by something in the (black) night – it turns out to be a black man. But it’s nevertheless a fun, original read that I’d definitely recommend to anyone interested in illustration or design: I thought Invisible was a breath of fresh air and am delighted to have discovered it thanks to Gathering Books’ Award Winning Book Challenge.

Of course the girls (and I) wanted to play at being invisible after reading this super book. Making an entire child (or mum) invisible is a little tricky, but I did show the girls how they could make a stamp or a sticker (appear to be) invisible.

I sent the girls out of the room whilst I got everything ready: I put two lidded jam jars on the worksurface. One was filled with water, and underneath it I placed a stamp.

I then invited the girls in and asked them to take a look at the jars. Did either of the jars have something underneath them?, I asked… No, came the rather unexcited reply.

I then took the lids off the jars and asked the girls to look from the top. Now could they see anything underneath either of the jars?

Ah, yes! A stamp (and no ordinary stamp at that!). The girls looked again from the side and once again the stamp seemed invisible, yet when they looked from the top, Matilda was smiling back at them.

Having replaced the lids, I picked up the jars and the girls got to investigate what difference the water made in the jars. First the empty jar was placed on the stamp, then the jar filled with water. With the empty jar on top, the stamp was clearly visible from the side…

…but with the water-filled jar on top, the stamp suddenly became invisible! Ta-da!

So very simple, but so very effective 🙂

And what’s going on here? Very simply put, when light passes from water to air it gets bent, making the object appear to be somewhere else. In this case, the water makes the stamp appear higher up, nearer the surface of the water. Looking from the side, the refracted image can’t be seen, but looking from above it can.

Whilst making stamps disappear, we listened to:

  • Invisible Friend by Recess Monkey
  • Invisible Pen by Nick Cope
  • The Invisible Man by Queen

  • (I also considered Invisible Touch by Genesis, Invisible by Alison Moyet, but they didn’t make the cut 😉 )

    Other creative ideas that work well with Invisible include:

  • Playing Halibut Jackson, and wearing clothes that blend in with the background – here’s where I made M a skirt to match our kitchen curtains, thus rendering her hips (at least) sort of invisible….
  • Using camouflage to hide animals: We made a book with animal shapes cut out of patterned paper and when these animals were placed against matching patterned paper they became invisible until they moved – here’s the book we made so you can see what I mean.
  • Making invisible ink – I particularly love this idea for secret valentines from MiniEco

  • Follow Me on PinterestNow at the top of this post I talked about two personal goals for Playing by the book this year. To help me achieve my second goal, I’ve signed up for Pinterest. You can find me here on Pinterest, where I’ll be gathering my favourite creative ideas from around the web, especially creative ideas to do with books. I’ve even created a board with more invisibility ideas if you’re looking for yet more fun things to do alongside Katje Kamm’s Invisible.

    12 Responses

    1. choxbox

      Awesome! Off to try it!

      How about one of the Flat Stanley series by Jeff Brown, the one in which he becomes invisible?

    2. Stacey

      Fun! And Harry Potter- are your girls ready yet for it as a read aloud? This post is just screaming ‘Invisibility Cloak!’
      Stacey recently posted..Snow Puppy

      • Zoe

        Hi Stacey, We started the first HP as a read aloud last summer but M didn’t bite so we haven’t continued. I’m sure we’ll be trying again soon though!

      • Zoe

        Thanks Helena, it’s a really fun book – and I couldn’t believe how simple and yet really how effective the jam jars were!

    3. Margo Dill

      I think you are my new idol. I love the activity you did with your girls. I stay at home with my 15-month-old daughter who is not quite ready for such an activity but the creativity is inspiring me. I tried “baking” cookies with her (the easy kind that you just take out of the package and put on the sheet) tonight, but she wants to eat the dough of course, just like the playdoh. But I keep trying and that’s the fun of parenting. Thank you for this fun post and having a theme at home, just like at school. . .:)
      Margo Dill recently posted..Chester’s Masterpiece by Chester, of course!

      • Zoe

        Hi Margo, what a kind comment! Sounds like you’re already having fun with your daughter; playdough made from cookie dough sounds like a lot of fun, an idea I think my girls would like to borrow!

    4. Myra from GatheringBooks

      Now this is truly an awesomely-creative activity with your kids!!!! And to think that you girls did not even require an invisibility cloak – just good ole’ science did the trick! 🙂 The book also sounds like a brilliant read. I just checked out our online database in our community library – and we have a copy of the book!!! Yay, will definitely look out for this one the next time we go visit. Many thanks, Zoe. So lovely to have you join our reading challenge. 🙂
      Myra from GatheringBooks recently posted..AWB 2012 Database

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