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April 8, 2011

New Books: Press Here

The word interactive, at least when applied to children's books, often seems like the sole property of the iPad nowadays. (Of course, it really goes back at least as far as our own childhoods and the Choose Your Own Adventure books.) But French illustrator HervĂ© Tullet's Press Heretechnically a picture book, I suppose, though it feels like a genre all its own—is a reminder that a little imagination can supply the sense of wonder that’s already starting to fade as our touchscreens become routine.

The concept is deceptively simple: The reader is presented with a yellow painted dot in the middle of an otherwise blank white page, with just the word “Ready?” below it. On the next page, the same dot, but with an instruction: "Press here and turn the page." When you do, you see that a second yellow dot has appeared, and even though you know perfectly well it would be there even if you hadn't followed the instructions, it feels magical. "Great!" the book congratulates you. "Now press the yellow dot again." A third appears on the next page. After again complimenting your work, the book tells you to "rub the middle one gently"—and it turns red.

And so it goes, brilliantly, for page after page, with vivid, dynamic "results" coming from instructions to blow on pages, hold the book up on its end, tap its sides, and so on. Tullet's endless inventiveness takes what could have been a one-note concept through ever surprising variations, so that in its entirety, Press Here feels almost like a satisfying animated short. In a sense, that's what it is, really: the first slow-mo flip book.

Even the youngest readers who can glean the words (mostly simple ones, all expressed conversationally) will start giggling within the first few pages, but my six-year-old was entranced, too. And parents will be hard-pressed not to smile with every page turn. This is one of those children's books for which you reserve a place of honor on the shelf, next to the Sendak and the Suzy Lee.

So while I'm eager to see what creative breakthroughs technology will bring to children's books in the coming years—and I have no doubt there will be many incredible ones—it's also nice to see a fertile mind and brush demonstrate that print still has a trick or two left up its sleeve.

[Cover image courtesy of Chronicle Books. Interior photo by Whitney Webster.]

1 comment:

  1. I read this at MoMA last weekend and was absolutely enchanted. At 25 years of age, I was giggling with every turn of the page. It's a brilliantly innovative way of engaging readers not only with words but with color and space as well. Thank you for sharing!