Little Big Books

Little Big Books opens with describing children’s pictures books as ‘one of the first storytelling media we encounter’, which help us ‘decipher pictorial representations of [the world’s] many denizens.’

Farbice Houdry in Little Big Books
Farbice Houdry in Little Big Books

While the introduction, by ‘Sonja Commentz’ (can that be her real name?) perhaps over intellectualises the medium – breaking it down into a pop-psychological analysis of ‘[children’s] ever-firing neurons’ translating images to ‘turn the camera obscura view of the world upsides down’, it’s not really the text that’s of interest – it’s the stunning array of images.

Bernardo Carvalho in Little Big Books
Bernardo Carvalho in Little Big Books

The beautiful cover image is from Alba Blaba & Mois by Alex Cousseau and Anne-Lise Boutin.

Little Big Books cover from Alba Blaba and Mois by Alex Cousseau and Anne-Lise Boutin.
Little Big Books cover from Alba Blaba and Mois by Alex Cousseau and Anne-Lise Boutin.

Despite these gripes about over-complicating the issue, it’s interesting to see the imagery framed in a sense of how best to make children understand the stories presented to them at such a young age – and how to ensure it makes the biggest possible impact.

Gewnola Carrere in Little Big Books
Gewnola Carrere in Little Big Books

As Commentz puts it in the intro, ‘Akin to film script or a musical score, yet explored at the children’s own pace and leisure, the dramaturgy of a good picture book therefore requites a thoughtful and storyboarded choreography of scenes, characters, storyline, and imagery, of cuts and perspectives, close-ups and wide shots.’

Alongside a huge range of gorgeous illustrations, each illustrator is introduced with a brief biography. There are also some more in-depth interviews with experts including illustrator Kitty Crowther, Cambridge School of Art Professor Martin Salisbury, and parenting writer Claire Walters.

Marta Madureira in Little Big Books
Marta Madureira in Little Big Books

We love this rather sinister weaselly-wolf-type-creature by Marta Madureira, a Portuguese designer and illustrator . Alongside the shadowy fellow at the top, the pouting crocodile is from the story A Crocadila Mandona, meaning, we’re told, ‘a bossy crocodile.’

The bustling page below is from Belgian illustrator Tom Shamp’s Otto Cars series of picture books. Among the toaster vans, snail cargo and tortoise trucks, there’s brass-playing birds, funky goats and cat doctors jostling for our attention.

Tom Shamp in Little Big Books
Tom Shamp in Little Big Books

Little Big Books: Illustrations for Children’s Picture Books is published by Gestalten and edited by Hendrick Hellige and Robert Klanten, priced £37.50

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