'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tania's Picks: Alphabeasties, Bugs by the Numbers and Alphasaurus


I first stumbled across Alphabeasties on the internet and was instantly agog. This is the an extraordinary book from extraordinary graphic design talents Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss, who run Werner Design Werks.

When the book arrived in the mail from Blue Apple Books, I had to sit down, my heart was racing so hard. Here is a book that comprises all I love in a picture book--stunning illustration, beautiful design, fabulous text, high production values, a very clever concept AND ... creative typography. Being someone totally obsessed with a) picture books and b) typography, I had a physiological reaction to this book.

So I had to sit down. And once I had taken a seat, I opened this book and I tumbled inside.

Alphabeasties is a feat in design but it's also an overwhelming joy to eyeball and read through. Using fonts of varying face and colour and size, we are introduced to an A to Z of animals, starting with Alligator, who is compromised of nought but the letter A. Around him are strands of algae composed of the word 'algae' and when we lift the page flap, we see him open his mouth, spouting the world 'alligator'.

Subsequent pages are equally enchanting, and combine letter-composed animals with beautiful layout, striking retro colours and interesting facts on font styles, along with added alliterated words + imagery, such as 'boots' and 'beard' for B.


This unicorn, above, rises up via a full-page flap and kicks its legs in the air, its swirling mane curling onto the page above it. Below we have an octopus whose tentacles stretch out over two half-page flaps in a string of Os. The effect is so utterly striking, you will, most definitely, be completely unable to stop yourself from saying 'wow'.

This a truly brilliant concept book that teaches our children so much more than the alphabet. I have always said children's books deserve beauty and style in their imagery, and Alphabeasties has it in spades.


Title: Alphabeasties
Author/Illustrator: Werner Design Werks
Publisher: Blue Apple Books, $39.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 July 2009
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9781934706787
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book


Sharon and Sarah's second book for Blue Apple Books is also a feat in picture book glory. This time, numbers are used to not only create a complete ecosystem of insects, but readers are double-whammied with fascinating bug facts that are sure to delight.

Did you know, for example, that a Black Widow spider's venom is 15 times more poisonous than a rattlesnake's? Or that Tarantulas can live up to 30 years? Or that most spiders have 6 silk glands called spinnerets? I most certainly did not. But I do now.


And what about the ant? It has 2 stomachs. That's right. One for its own nourishment and one for sharing contents with the colony. Mmmm. Delish. And did you know that queen ants can live as long as 30 years!? I now know this.


As with Alphabeasties, Bugs by the Numbers features amazing lift-the-flaps and page cut-outs, and a virtual forest of striking image and fascinating facts, all beautifully-designed and implemented. Glorious.


Title: Bugs by the Numbers
Author/Illustrator: Werner Design Werks
Publisher: Blue Apple Books, $39.99 RRP
Publication Date: 27 April 2011
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9781609050610
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book


The third book in this series will send dinosaur-lovers over the edge into Dinoeuphoria. Alphasaurus and Other Prehistoric Types cruises the alphabet with an A to Z of ancient creatures ... who knew there was a dino type for each letter of the alphabet; sometimes more than one? I was so hoping to catch them out, but the team came through with a full alphabetic line-up.

Again, striking typographic imagery, cut-outs, facts and lift-the-flaps make this a true Mesozoic feast for the eyes, not to mention the brain. Brilliant stuff.




Title: Alphasaurus and Other Prehistoric Types
Author/Illustrator: Werner Design Werks
Publisher: Blue Apple Books, $29.95 RRP
Publication Date: 16 January 2013
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9781609051938
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book

Other items in this series include an activity book and flash cards, and the Werner Design Werks team is also responsible for many other publications. Do check them out at www.wdw.com.



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