Stack Overflow: Production Quality

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Let’s pause for a moment to talk about production quality in children’s books. I’m not talking about the quality of chunky board books or the paper stock used in typical picture books.

I’m talking about books that go above and beyond the call of duty. Books that scream “Look at me!” when you open them up and turn the pages. Books that impress both you and your kids as you read.

This week, we’re rounding up a few such books.

For the wee ones:

Photo Jun 14, 11 50 09 PMPop-Up Dinosaur ABC by Robert Crowther (Candlewick Press): This one came out a few months ago, but I thought it timely to bring up now in light of the mammoth opening weekend we just saw with Jurassic World.

We’re usually suckers for pop-up books in our house, and this one is no exception. Every page includes two or three lettered flaps. Open them up and reveal an amazingly cool dinosaur that jumps off the page. And since they needed to include one dinosaur for each letter, we get far more than the usual suspects.

Sure, we’ve got Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus … but we’ve also got adorable pop-up versions of Falcarius, Herrerasaurus, Xiaotingia, and Yangchuanosaurus. I know, right?

Each pop-up dinosaur is accompanied by a brief description, and there’s a cool size comparison diagram with all 26 dinos (and a human) on the inside back cover.

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Photo Jun 14, 11 49 54 PMMadame Sonia Delaunay by Gérard Lo Monaco (Tate Publishing / ABRAMS): This one’s another pop-up book, but instead of dinosaurs we get modern art! Modern art by 20th century artist and fashion designer Sonia Delaunay, to be exact.

Now, modern art isn’t the easiest art to understand, especially if you’re a toddler. With that in mind, Gérard Lo Monaco’s accompanying poems draw in the listener and ask probing and thought-provoking questions about the artwork that’s lifting off the page.

Kids will have fun looking a little deeper at the art, searching for clues. Does this piece show slithering snakes or ocean waves? Can you see eyes and a smile in that piece?

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For those with more patience:

billys-booger-9781442473515_hrBilly’s Booger: A Memoir (Sorta) by William Joyce (Simon and Schuster): This hilarious picture book became an instant favorite in my house. With that title, how could it not? The story is about imaginative Billy who has a hard time paying attention at school and whose imagination is always getting him into trouble. Until he enters a book contest and channels that creative energy into his very own book: Billy’s Booger: The Memoir of a Little Green Nose Buddy.

The art here is phenomenal, and the story is at once charming and laugh-out-loud funny. None of this should come as a surprise, since William Joyce won an Academy Award (Best Animated Short Film) for his art and storytelling on The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

But what of the production quality? Included in the middle of this book is a reproduction of young Billy’s book. Printed on different paper and designed to look handwritten (complete with spelling mistakes and doodles), it’s a fantastic addition to the book and an engrossing “side trip” that brings the reader into the story.

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Photo Jun 14, 11 49 39 PMRobo-Sauce by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri (Dial Books / Penguin): This one might not be entirely fair to include now since it doesn’t come out until October. I picked up an advance copy at last month’s Book Expo America. Still, this is one to keep on your radar.

This is the story of how a robot-obsessed kid gets his hands on magical robo-sauce, which has the power to turn anything into a robot. Including the book in your hands! Production-quality points go to this one because the book is basically a Transformer! Follow a convoluted series of steps, folding pages around the book, and the book becomes Robo-Book!

Tons of fun.

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For slightly older kids:


The Fairy-Tale Handbook by Libby Hamilton and Tomislav Tomic (Templar Books / Candlewick): If you’re a fan of fairy tales or modern takes on fairy-tale characters (e.g., Shrek, Fables, Once Upon a Time), then this one’s for you.

Presented as a handbook or guidebook to various types of characters and settings, the book is beautifully designed and filled with little bits of interactivity: pop-ups, secret windows, small books with several pages that open, and all kinds of wonderful things to explore on each page.

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