On becoming curious again

posted in: PatrickGeorge | 7

Books which introduce babies and the youngest of kids to basic concepts such as colours, shapes, numbers and opposites are ten-a-penny, so when one comes along that takes you by surprise and makes you look afresh at these basic concepts again, you sit up and take notice.

Publisher PatrickGeorge has created not one, but four books based on these basic concepts which do exactly that; they make you curious once more.

All four books share a basic “trick”; paper pages are interleaved with partially transparent acetate pages. By turning over the acetate page, the images on the adjacent paper pages change.

For example, in Numbers the reader rescues a fly on each page when counting up the numbers:

Before the acetate page is turned it looks like one fly is about to be eaten by a fish.
The acetate page is turned, and in doing so the fly is rescued from the mouth of the fish, and counting up to six is completed.

How fun for the kid reader to be the rescuing hero! I also like how turning the acetate page focuses attention on counting the final number; rather than the adult or child simply counting by rote, the page turn makes the reader pause to physically add the final fly to the tally.

In Opposites much of the fun comes from optical illusions; a large ball held in the arms of a child becomes a small ball held between finger and thumb, or an arrow seems to move across the page, first missing its target, then hitting it.

Before you turn the acetate page, the tear looks like a drop of water
Turn the acetate page and the tear is no long a drop of water, but rather, a flame

The design is innovative, the bright, bold illustrations are eyecatching, and most importantly, these books make learning about basic concepts a great deal of fun. Not just for the child, but also for the adult reading and re-reading these books with their kids.

The physical play aspect of these books reminded me of one of last year’s most widely acclaimed picture books – Press Here by Hervé Tullet (which I reviewed here). As with Tullet’s book, so with these books by PatrickGeorge: reading becomes an active-ity (forgive the deliberate misspelling) without anything electronic anywhere in sight. These books create conversations and spark interest.

Unfortunately, each book comes with a compulsory EU warning that states it is “Not for children under 3 years” because technically the acetate represents a choking hazard. Given that these books are ideal for parents with very young children, it is such a shame that these books are required to include this warning. I wanted to give a copy of these books to a local playgroup, but this warning means they do not wish to accept them (even though parents with an ounce of common sense will not be worried at all by the risks theoretically posed). PatrickGeorge have assured me that the inclusion of the warning is merely a formality and that the books have all been safety-checked and passed. Perhaps this warning can have a silver lining though? The books are so stylish and beautifully produced they will appeal to readers who have long since learned their numbers and colours. In fact, they’ll appeal to anyone who likes thoughtful, ingenious and smart books.

The acetates in Numbers and Opposites inspired us to play with our own sheets of thin plastic.

First we made a light box by commandeering a toy storage box with a smooth lid, and lining it with white cardboard. Inside we placed a couple of bike lights, and on to the lid we taped some tracing paper (though you could also use greaseproof paper).

With the bike lights shining at the white inside walls of the light box, and all the lights off and curtains drawn, we then played with coloured acetate shapes, making stained glass patterns, and mixing colours to see the result.

The girls also enjoyed playing under a blanket with the light box.

Whilst making our light box and subsequently playing with it we listened to:

  • Opposites by Ralph and Ralph
  • Land of Opposites by The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
  • Opposite Blues by Vincent

  • Other activities we could have enjoyed inspired by Numbers and Opposites include:

  • Using acetates to catch a snowflake and keep it forever
  • Using acetates to make a flexible, distorting mirror, the sort you might find in a fun fair
  • Drawing with oil pastels on acetates and then mounting them with coloured card behind to create different effects

  • What’s the cleverest thing you’ve seen recently in a children’s book?

    Disclosure: I received Opposites and Numbers for review from the publisher. This, however, remains my own and honest review.

    7 Responses

    1. sandhya

      Oh, Zoe, that was such a wonderful activity. It is a strange co-incidence, but we recently had a very illuminating discussion on light mixing: additive and subtractive mixing of colours on our ST group. Spearheaded by Choxbox. I’ve also written about colour mixing in the light spectrum in my latest post.

      We’ve enjoyed some great books which make use of the acetate sheet for differing versions of the same story too.
      sandhya recently posted..Book review: Cinderella Ate my Daughter

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.