February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Flaps, Folds, and Facts: Adventuring with Interactive Books


These handsomely illustrated interactive books are not only enjoyable to explore, but they also encourage basic literacy skills and learning, provide informational content, and inspire curiosity and creative thinking. The volumes featured here invite youngsters to actively participate in the reading experience by folding out pages or flaps, poring over pictures to find hidden images, searching out specified icons, tracing their way through mazes, or navigating maps. At the same time, kids are learning to pay attention to detail, matching meaning with vocabulary, improving attention span and concentration skills, discovering creative ways to express ideas, and gaining confidence in their problem-solving abilities. And best of all, these entertaining offerings help children to associate reading with having fun.

The World Around Us

Josef Antòn and Lucie Brunellière take the youngest seek-and-find fans Deep in the Forest (Abrams Appleseed, Mar. 2017; PreS-K) on a fantastical journey that will engage their visual skills and stir their imaginations. From early morning to nighttime (with stops along the way in the treetops, by the cool water, in a sunlit clearing, and underground), elegantly designed spreads depict a vibrant array of flora and fauna. The simple text directs readers to look for particular creatures (a sleeping panda, a shy red ant, a yawning black bear, or a smiling gazelle), while additional queries (“But where is the okapi?”) encourage youngsters to lift a flap and reveal a hidden individual (along with a list of even more animals to search for). Blending a fanciful approach with a touch of realism, the lush-hued, stylized artwork creates a fun-to-explore jungle-esque realm peopled with delightfully expressive critters, many of which appear throughout the book (allowing readers to return to the pages and muse about their activities). This sturdy oversize board book can be used as a jump-off point for researching particular species, comparing and contrasting real-world ecosystems, or inspiring story-making possibilities.

Nadine Robert’s Toshi’s Little Treasures (Kids Can, 2016; PreS-K) delightfully encapsulates the wonder and exhilaration experienced by young children as they discover the world around them. After a grandmother gifts her grandson with a bright red backpack to hold all of the objects they amass on their walks together, the two head out to six different destinations. Whether a country lane, the park, or the beach, each locale is introduced with a pulled-back double-page illustration depicting the setting and showing Toshi and his grandmother exploring the area (many objects are labeled). On the next spread, close-up images of the collected “Treasures” (both natural and people created) are presented on the left side (with object names), while possible sources for the items are depicted on the right. In this manner, readers can match a small gray bead found during a stroll through town with a necklace, or an acorn discovered in the forest with an oak tree, a discussion-starting matching activity that neatly expands the search-and-find experience. A list of the “Living Treasures” (animals both small and large) scattered throughout the pages is appended, encouraging readers to go back and find them. Aki’s entrancing watercolor artwork depicts both the outdoor scenes and the affection shared by the intergenerational characters. This book makes a lovely precursor to a child’s own exploratory rambles through local neighborhood streets or far-away summertime destinations.

Yuval Zommer’s Big Book of Bugs (Thames & Hudson, 2016; PreS-Gr 2) blends basic information about all things creepy crawly with search-and-find elements that keep readers engaged. Pairing enchanting artwork in earthy tones with brief text tidbits, the easy-to-digest spreads focus on specific insects (ladybugs, butterflies, moths, ants, bees, etc.) as well as other species (snails, spiders, worms, etc.) and broader topics (offspring, movement, house or garden dwellers, etc.). Targeted queries (“Can you find…a dragonfly that has caught its dinner mid-air?”) inspires readers to take a closer look at particular pages and interpret the factual content, while a challenge to find the same fly (beware similar-looking imposters) hidden throughout the volume 15 times encourages persistence in concentration skills and ensures multiple readings.

Look and Look Again

Bored with life at the zoo, a family of 10 tuxedo-feathered critters has escaped from their enclosure and it’s up to readers to take a close look at 17 packed-to-the-gills scenes and figure out, Where’s the Penguin? (Aladdin, Feb. 2017; K-Gr 4). Actually, eagle-eyed youngsters have to search each visually manic spread for not one but 10 individual birds (identified by name, clothing accessories, and personality in the “Penguin Profiles” intro). For example, there’s shy Muffy, who wears a wooly scarf and hat; Spike, “coolest penguin in the igloo,” who sports a spiky hairdo; and technology-loving Dot, discernable by the black dot on her chest. The birds take a few zany detours on their journey home to Antarctica, including stops at a crowded mall, an outdoor birthday party, a haunted house, a lakeside beach, a bowling alley, and a concert hall (they even get lost in space). Sophie Schrey’s lighthearted text describes the actions and feelings of the various penguins and encourages readers to persevere. Chuck Whelon’s densely detailed cartoon illustrations abound with color, movement, and silliness (kids will guffaw at the guy driving a souped-up shopping cart around the Go-Kart track, or a child squirting a cringing adult with a super soaker at a waterpark). An appended section provides answers along with additional challenges for diehard seekers.

Luna the dragon has stolen gold from a community of blue gnomes, and readers are charged with going Underground (QEB, May 2017; K-Gr 4) to the creature’s lair to get the treasure back. Choosing their favorite mode of imaginary transportation (a mining wagon, a frog with fancy howdah, or a giant earthworm with saddle), youngsters finger-follow maze-like pathways through various scenarios and figure out how to chart their course to their destination. Along the way, they must collect a specified number of objects (e.g., magic flutes), solve simple math problems (“How many baby bugs are on Archie Ant’s purple truck?”), and interpret basic map coordinates (a concept explained at the book’s beginning). Paul Boston’s 12 whimsically imagined and depicted subterranean settings include Cable Maze (with pipes and a Power Station), Hidden Lagoon (with swimming fish and a mountaintop observatory for watching fireflies), Dinosaur Pit (with gnome paleontologists hard at work), and cozy-looking Toadstool Town. This appealing book has a kid-grabbing video-game vibe, and additional ideas for reinforcing map-reading, counting, time-telling, shape-recognition, math-vocabulary and measuring skills are appended.

Théo Guignard’s Labyrinth (Wide Eyed, Mar. 2017; K-Gr 5) presents 14 fun-to-explore mazes that increase in visual intricacy and challenge level as the pages are turned. Readers try to find their way along complicated pathways on oversize double-page scenarios while also searching the kaleidoscopic scenes for objects listed across the bottoms of the pages. Varying in illustrative style, color scheme, use of perspective, and subject matter, each spread is unique and fresh, holding readers’ interest as the book progresses. A trip through the “magical mansion” to get to a birthday party involves a confusing warren of interconnected rooms (a library, a theater, a ski slope, a sheep pasture, even the moon) presented in perfectly aligned squares; a bird must navigate a maze of swirling stylized worms to reach her hungry chicks; a police car tracks a red robot across a futuristic cityscape of elevated highways and sleek skyscrapers; a royal guest must traverse ivory pathways through a multi-level castle keep to find the king’s throne; a boy must thread his way through colorful beach umbrellas and sunbathers to reach the water; and more. Patient, persistent, and visually perceptive maze runners will enjoy this challenging and imagination-packed book.

Go Places

A Village Is a Busy Place (Tara, Jun. 2017; Gr 1-5) by V. Geetha folds down vertically to reveal a stunning panorama depicting the every-day lives of the Santhal people (one of “India’s largest indigenous communities”). Illustrated by Rohima Chitrakar in bold red, green, and mustard hues, the book is designed to suggest the Patua style of scroll painting (an artist community in West Bengal in India). Panel by eye-dazzling panel, the simple text encourages readers to seek out details in each bustling-with-activity section, while learning about the villagers and the goings-on. The first segment highlights the preparations for a wedding (a grand chair for the bride, musicians, women busy cooking a feast), the next focuses on village workers (a fisherman pulling in a net, people selling wares), others depict use of common space, or evening activities (caring for animals, cooking, listening to music), and so on, until the book unfolds to its entire length (it can be hung by a grommet). Kids will delight in poring over the lovely images, searching out details, and making discoveries about another culture. Bursting with life and activity, this tapestry might also inspire creative art, narrative, or story-spinning pursuits.

Armchair travelers will enjoy touring the world via the colorfully illustrated “Unfolding Journeys” series (Lonely Planet Kids; Gr 2-6). Written in a chatty and accessible tone by Stewart Ross and printed on sturdy paper stock, these volumes open out into eight-page (more than six-feet long) friezes that readers can spread across the floor and leisurely peruse. Fact files located on the book covers present maps, general descriptions, and a brief history of exploration for each destination. One side of the frieze unfurls into a map-style overview of the journey with numbered images and brief text descriptions identifying important natural, cultural, and historical stops along the way. Readers flip over the folded-out panel for more information about each site, text written with an engaging tour-guide style blend of hard facts and fascinating anecdotes.

Kids can cruise up the River Nile to discover the many Wonders of Egypt , traveling “from the golden beaches of the Mediterranean to the Great Lakes of East Africa.” Vibrantly depicted in Vanina Starkoff’s sun-drenched illustrations, the expedition begins at Cleopatra’s Palace (now under water in Alexandria Harbor); makes stops along the way to view an assortment of ancient sites, modern cities, and myriad wildlife; and eventually culminates at the rock temple of Abu Simbel (and its “mega-statues” of Pharaoh Ramses II) and a discussion of the elusive source of this famed waterway. Following the Great Wall (both Jun. 2017), illustrated by Victo Ngai, involves traveling from east to west across much of North China, from the Turpan Depression (a giant hole almost twice the size of Massachusetts) to the Young Lady’s Gate (a Niangziguan fort in Shanxi built circa 1542), while “passing though incredible landscapes, visiting historical treasures, hearing ancient legends, and discovering the face of modern-day China.” Also available in this interactive series are Rocky Mountain Explorer (the Canadian Rockies) and Amazon Adventure (both 2016), illustrated by Annie Davidson and Jenni Sparks, respectively. These fun-to-manipulate imagination-grabbing travelogues are sure to inspire further research and fanciful journeys.

Other recent articles by Joy Fleishhacker include Reading Around the WorldGardens Galore, and  Explore the Natural World: Big Books for Browsing.




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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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