Thursday, March 4, 2010

Big Book, Little Book, Itty Bitty Teeny Tiny Book.

I may not be putting pencil to paper for my own book these days, but I'm thinking about the final size of it as a much bigger component than I had before. How much do you consider size when working on a dummy? How often do you think about the size of books?

Last year I noticed a few oversize board books at our Barnes & Noble. A gigantic version of Freight Train had me tweeting 'Why?' My son has the 'normal' size book and it seemed just right. Since then, we've acquired a few books bigger and smaller than what I assumed was the average sized board book.

Now that my son is mobile, the giant Moo Baa La La La seem to stop him from a distance, just catching his attention as he toddles along. He'll play while standing at the couch, but so far he doesn't seem interested in flipping the pages in these behemoths. It's just too heavy. So I'm starting to see the value a bit, but I still find myself asking, Why? Is this size appealing for daycare centers, so workers can read to a group of toddlers without worrying about tearing of delicate pages? Will it be interesting to him when he's actually big enough to carry it, or will he prefer picture books? Is this targeted at reluctant readers, who want to feel BIG but can't sit for a more complex story? Or is it just another way to try and make money for the publishers? Not that I'm against it, but I feel like books should be the right size, for the right age and child.

The average sized board book has been our mainstay. Whether square or horizontal, it serves us well for laptime, wandering, stacking, flipping, grabbing, and loving. We prefer the native board books, not those picture books that have been shrunk down, although a few of those seem to work just as well (I Kissed the Baby comes to mind). Hanukkah Lights is no longer seasonal, but that hasn't stopped us from reading it often. It's a perfect first Melissa Sweet book, don't you think?

And last, but not least... the tiny book. Oh, how we loved this little apple-shaped book when we checked it out of the library! That's why its my pick for this month (see sidebar). I'm still thinking about tracking it down to buy, that's how much we miss it. It just fits in his little hands. It's light enough to carry everywhere - and really it got carried everywhere. And the illustrations inside charmed us over and over. Richard Scarry is timeless, even if some of the vehicles are a bit dated (a metal toothpaste car, and actual jar of yogurt as the yogurt car, etc.). I definitely understand the value in such a dear little object, especially with the scale and detail in the illustrations on white. I checked out a big picture book of Richard Scarry's and it just didn't have the same appeal - for either of us actually.

So what do you think, dear readers? Big, Little, Teeny - or all of the above?


Dana said...

I totally agree. Size & shape are so important & I start thinking about it when I start thumbnails. It has so much to do with how kids relate to certain stories. I'm not against ebooks or kindles but this aspect will be lost in those formats. Beatrix Potter's books' small size for small hands is all part of the charm of the books.
Thanks for a great post!

roz said...

Very interesting post, Gina. My kids are all older now, so it's great to read the perspective from a small 'reader' again. I think there is a place for all the sizes but I have to agree, the larger ones are awkward. Probably idea for reading to a large group but not so great when you are sitting with your little one in your lap. I have been working on a new board book dummy and I've decided to go with 7 x 7. It seems to be a happy medium. Not too big and not too small.

Alicia PadrĂ³n said...

I just wrote a long comment and it somehow got deleted. Arrgh..!

Anyway, I was saying that agree with you. I think book size is not something people too often think about.

For very little ones there is nothing better than a little book. They can hold it very well, turn the pages on their own and carry it around and take it everywhere, including their mouths ;o)

Plus we have to remember that for them that book is not little at all. Is just the right size scale wise.

Now for older kids books can start getting bigger.

I also think that some books, regardless of the age group the are targeted, can support the story better if it's the right size. If I were to do a book about a tiny mouse that lived in a narrow crack on a little house the book will be so much better if it were tiny too.

Great post Gina!

mwyman said...

Our (almost) 4 year old loves his board books and really does not seem to favor a certain format (yet). He just loves books, any books.

The Richard Scarry Cars and Trucks book was one of his favorites when younger (he slept with it quite often from 2 - 2.5 yrs old) and he returns to this smaller board book even now. He has been more interested in the picture book formatted Richard Scarry books just recently (not necessarily the ones with picture/word labels, but rather the ones with a story line). He likes to hear about how those were favorites of mommy and daddy when they were his age.

Even though it seems that he is moving towards favoring the picture book format he has recently been a bit obsessed with the Beatrix Potter books (smaller format, longer text, tough language).

Another favorite of ours was One Bear, One Dog by Paul Stickland - in a large board book format. It worked well for reading to the young one in between both mom and dad at bedtime. Plus, this book boasts a mirror at the end, so perhaps the bigger the better? The larger board book format worked well for us in that situation, but the kiddo also liked these larger formats solo around the age of 1.5. I'd agree that the size and weight is tough for them early on.

We're still working on helping the 8 mo. old not to ingest books (or anything else for that matter) so he is still loving the cloth books (which are so great early on). We all really have loved Roger Priddy's books like Fuzzy Bee and Friends and Fluffy Chick and Friends.

Ooh! How about the board books with holes (such as Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert) which works so much better for the under 3 crowd as far a durability goes instead of the picture book (easier to tear pages as tiny fingers poke through the cut-outs). Of course the texture books are great too - I know Gina has mentioned the Usborne series of That's not my... books. The 4 year old now likes that he can "read" those on his own.

It's a great topic to think about Gina...and always interesting to see what is new at the book store.

Gina Perry said...

Great comments from everyone - thank you! Funny that Beatrix Potter would come up a few times. I agree, Meg, the language (and content) is a little hard. But I do love their petite size - Miles tried to rip the pages last time we took them from the library, and they are quite long for him. I always love more titles to check out from the library! Since you mentioned it being a little bedtime companion, perhaps I will buy that little Scarry book for him. :)
I still wish I knew more about the oversize board book phenomenon...

Kathy Weller said...

I thuink it makes sense for kids of particular age group/sizes/focus ability to have the appropriate material! What an introspective and thoughtful post. Thanks for shedding light on this subject.