I’ll be blunt – books about ‘first words’ tend to suffer from sameness. Obviously there’s good reason for that as babies generally learn the same words first. Still, it doesn’t mean books about first words have to presented in the same format, with stock-photos of primary-coloured clothing and furniture and irrelevant household objects such as irons (which I’m still not confident my kids could identify, though that says more about me and my housekeeping than them!).
The Big Book of Words and Pictures by German author and illustrator Ole Könnecke tweaks the usual ‘first words’ format and in doing so, creates a truly delightful book full of charming details.
For a start, the book includes lots of relevant objects – a coffee machine, headphones, a cordless phone (Hooray! How many times have you tried to explain a picture of a phone with a cord and a rotary dial to a two-year-old?!).
However, the true charm is in the little ‘progressions’ Könnecke has created with the pictures. For example, a stork with a ‘vacuum cleaner’ plugged into a ‘power socket’ is busy cleaning ‘crumbs’ made by two babies eating ‘cookies’. There’s another one that cleverly shows transport and ageing in one sequence – we follow a bird from ‘baby buggy’ to ‘stroller’ to ‘scooter’ to ‘push bike’ and onward through to ‘cane’ and ‘wheelchair’. Breaking away from the standard pictures of articles of clothing, in this book we see a cute little bear getting out of his pyjamas and into his clothes, piece by piece.
Könnecke’s book has been likened to Richard Scary - there are similarities in the layout, but The Big Book of Words and Pictures has a subtlety that Scary doesn’t. There’s more white space on each page, it’s a little gentler and of course, as mentioned, it’s modern and fully relevant. The Big Book of Words and Pictures is in a large, board book format and is suitable for children as young as one year old.
The Big Book of Words and Pictures is available online from Readings.