Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Look! A Book! By Bob Staake

I won't muck around. Look! A Book! by Bob Staake is my pick of children's books for 2011. My partner (who is a traditional animator) and I have been 'ooh'ing and 'ahh'ing over this book all week. Look! A Book! is one of the most delightful and beautiful children's books I have seen, fullstop.

Why so excited?  A large hardback with thick, glossy pages, it is extremely enticing. The jacket gives a clue to what fun lies inside and it is apparent that you are going to see the highest standard of illustration.

The text begins with LOOK! A Book! Two children are pointing to a book on the opposite page (which is revealed through a circular hole cut into the page.) Turn the page, and the text explains how the book works: 

With images of every kind!

So many objects,
big and small.
Let's see if you
can find them

The text continues in a lovely rhythm, and from there on you will find alternating double-page spreads - one in flat colour with simple text and circular holes revealing objects on other pages...

A bone!
A cone!
A pumpkin phone!

A clock!
A sock!
A toothy croc!

followed by an extremely detailed illustrative spread, each one packed with quirky characters and hilarious interactions, and each utterly fascinating in its complexity.

Double Page Spread from Look! A Book! By Bob Staake
Look closely, there are many subtleties:
Eat chocomeal, a billboard says, Kids love it! (Moms not so much).

The contrast in design of simple versus complex kept me from being overwhelmed by the intricate illustrations, every detail a masterpiece in itself. Children will love the novelty of holes cut from the pages as well as the amusing and extremely well-executed illustrations. There is plenty of opportunity for discussion with your child as you can both point out funny things you discover with each reading. I wish I could have had this book when I was little...ooohhh I would have adored it! Let me show you another page:

Double Page Spread from Look! A Book! by Bob Staake

 Close ups of the same spread: 

Detail from Look! A Book! by Bob Staake

Detail from Look! A Book! by Bob Staake

Detail from Look! A Book! by Bob Staake

When you reach the end there is a whole list of things to find within the book. Even then you haven't exhausted all the possibilities:

Now that your eyes are open wide,
you might find things that often hide.

Like stinky skunks and chimney sweeps,
dinosaurs and purple sheep!
Toasters, rockets, little frogs,
ice cream-eating wiener dogs!

And then the book winds up with a final rhyme and the reader is ready to delve back in to look for more! There are many themes including underwater, robots, carnival, and haunted house, even a treetop town - everything a child is fascinated by, and I guarantee your child will be fascinated by this book. Look! A Book! is a must-have!

Bob Staake is the author and/or illustrator of over 50 books, many of which are still in print. Learn more about Bob Staake at his website. You can purchase Look! A Book! through Amazon.

If you like Look! A Book! you may also like 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe.

Many thanks to Bob Staake for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog permission to write and publish this review.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Go Benny Go - A Teeny-Tiny Preview!

If you've noticed that I am not posting as frequently at the moment, it is (among other things) because I am working hard on my children's label Go Benny Go which is nearly ready for release. I still have a lot of work to do, but I hope to launch before the end of June. Yippee!

Teeny-tiny peeks at Go Benny Go - coming soon!  

Insy-winsy teeny-weeny glimpses of the Go Benny Go goodies to come!

Go Benny Go - kids' wall art, greeting cards and more - is coming!
Bringing you more soon.

All images are the copyright of Go Benny Go, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Catimini at Mesamis - Mt Eden, Auckland

Before I became a mother, I drove past Mesamis - in Mt Eden Road, Auckland - for years, oblivious to the treasures it holds. Set apart from the main shopping village in a small group of shops, it can easily be overlooked, but if you do catch a glimpse of the stunning children's clothing in the window, you'll be compelled to step inside. Mesamis overflows with the most exquisite designer children's clothing, most of which is imported directly from France. Catimini, IKKS, Absorba, Confetti, Chipie, Miniman, Alphabet, Kenzo, and Jean Bourget are some of the labels on offer, and larger than the impression it gives from the street, Mesamis is extremely well stocked and caters to a wide range of tastes.

 Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)

The great news is that Mesamis has just launched an online store, so shoppers from all over New Zealand (and the world) can now browse and purchase over the web. Being a surface-pattern enthusiast I was immediately drawn to the Catimini Winter 2011 Collection (New Zealand Winter Season). I adore the rich colour-combinations used in the collection, the mix of patterns and the way they are placed together (large prints against small) for contrast and interest. The vibrance in the colours keep the garments playful, while the intricacy of the designs and the high quality of the craftsmanship gives them a sophisticated edge.

 Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)

Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)

Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)
Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)

Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)

Catimini Winter 2011 at Mesamis (NZ Winter Season)

There is plenty for boys in the Catimini collection too, and of course Mesamis carrys many other labels too. I am a big fan of Catimini so that is why I have chosen to showcase that, but Mesamis has so much more - you really have to check it out for yourself. If you can get to the store, you'll find it well worth the trip, and while these photographs are lovely there is nothing quite like seeing the garments in real life. If you can't - no problem - check out the brand new Mesamis online store. It's fab! 

Mesamis - Exclusive French Childrenswear Ages 0 - 16
545 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden 1024, Auckland 

A huge thanks to Mary at Mesamis for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog to permission to publish these images.

Friday, May 6, 2011

100 Things by Masayuki Sebe

If you love books, as I do, you will appreciate the whole experience - the cover, the illustrations, the typography, the binding, the feel of the paper, everything! And most importantly, an enjoyable journey with a satisfying conclusion. 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe ticked all these boxes for me.

Cover for 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe, published by Gecko Press

Released today in both hardback and paperback, the paperback copy I have has the look and feel of quality. My first thought was that the retail price of NZ$19.99 is good value compared to other children's paperbacks I have seen at a similar price. In a large format the illustrations are big enough to take in all the detail comfortably, and of detail there is plenty!

Pages 6 and 7 from 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe

100 Things is a counting book that deals with the BIG numbers, which is not easy to find - in my experience counting books tend to stop at ten or twenty for only very young readers. True to its title there are one hundred things to count on each page, and if that sounds arduous don't worry - kids can count , for example, just the blue elephants, or how many of the elephants are sleeping. Often the items are subtly grouped together in tens to assist counting.

  Pages 18 and 19 from 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe

But there is so much more to this book than just counting. 100 Things is packed with humour and cute interactions that a child can relate to (can you find the farting mole on page 6?) My 2 year old picked out things that interested her, and many of them I had missed. There are dozens of hidden details and incidents to spot amongst the mayhem, and the joy of this book is the discovery of new things with every reading. Each spread is so completely different to the next that it creates some anticipation of what's to follow, and if you are paying attention you can sometimes find little hints or clues to what might be on the next page.

Pages 10 and 11 from 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe

 Pages 12 and 13 from 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe

Pages 14 and 15 from 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe

The book concludes with a last spread that brings all the characters together, and then the final page sends you back looking for more hidden goodies. 100 Things is charming in every detail, rich in colour, and utterly intriguing for young readers. Certainly worth spending the extra for a hardback copy (though the paperback is extremely well produced) it makes a brilliant birthday gift. I will share my copy with my daughter, but I would have wished to own this even before I had a child - illustrators and designers can appreciate the quirky illustrations, pleasing use of colour, and clever compositions. Each spread is an artwork in itself; I am hoping for posters, wall decals, and a series of similar books to follow. Pretty pretty pleeeeeeeease!

About the Author

Masayuki Sebe was born in 1953 in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. He graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, majoring in craft. He is much-loved for his brightly coloured, humour-filled illustrations. He is especially well-known for his activity books, including Dinosaurs Galore (Gecko Press, 2010).
100 Things is originally from Japan, has also been published in France, and is now published in New Zealand by Gecko Press.

About the Publisher

Gecko Press specializes in English versions of curiously good books from around the world by well-established authors and illustrators. These books have a strong track record in their own and other countries, and are winners of international awards. Visit the Gecko Press website to purchase 100 Things or to view their catalogue.

100 Things Masayuki Sebe
Ages 3-6
Size 300 x 242mm
24 Pages

ISBN 978-1-877467-82-0 Paperback
ISBN 978-1-877467-81-3 Hardback

Published by Gecko Press in May 2011 
Read another Kitty as a Picture article featuring a Gecko Press publication: The Chicken Thief.

A huge thanks to Gecko Press for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog to review this book.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Heather Ross: Far Far Away III Fabric Collection

A spontaneous post this one (I really should be working; might be a late night now!) after discovering, with much excitement, that Heather Ross has just released images of her Far Far Away III designs. Some readers will already be familiar with Heather's popular fairy tale-inspired designs for Kokka of Japan. Stores can place an order for the latest collection through Kokka's US distributor Seven Islands Fabric, and if you are purchasing at a retail level you can expect to see the collection hit the shelves in quilt stores around June. Happily, I find the collection every bit as charming and magical as I had hoped it would be. Take a look:

Far Far Away III Pink, by Heather Ross for Kokka

Far Far Away III Green, by Heather Ross for Kokka

Far Far Away III Yellow, by Heather Ross for Kokka

Heather has also been working on a line of wallpaper which she will reveal soon. I can't wait to see it, and for news on that check her blog over the next week or two, or follow her Twitterfeed.

Some fabrics in the Far Far Away II collection are still available through Seven Islands Fabric, so here is a look back at that collection too:

Far Far Away II Meadow, by Heather Ross for Kokka

Far Far Away II Plum, by Heather Ross for Kokka

Far Far Away II Aqua, by Heather Ross for Kokka

A google search is the best bet for finding a retail stockist. Stores carrying any of Heather Ross's designs are welcome to leave a comment so readers can find somewhere to purchase.

A snippet about Heather Ross

Heather grew up in the country in northern Vermont, US, and her home was a very creative one - her father was a writer and her mother a painter. The house was always filled with art and handmade things. There was rarely a television or telephone, so Heather and her sister filled many hours drawing and making things as a way to keep busy through the winter. Heather was knitting and sewing before she turned six, and designing clothing at around 8 or 9 years of age! Summers were filled with the joys of the country, such as roaming horse meadows for wild strawberries, and jumping off rock ledges into a swimming hole. Fond memories of these days shape much of Heather's work, and though she is now living in New York (and enjoying it), her heart still lies in the country. Nature plays an even more vital role in her work now, she claims on her website. "Having been removed from it seems to have only made my love for it more powerful, my sense of wonder more pronounced."

Heather Ross is definitely up there amongst my favourite designers, and I bet many readers will feel the same. For more about Heather Ross visit her website.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kids' Bedroom Ideas: Noosh and Down to the Woods

My daughter and I are decorating a set of cardboard letters with paint, felt pens, and glitter, and we will eventually pin them up on the wall of her bedroom. They are fun to make, but for a polished look and a more permanent fixture I like the Noosh Gigi Alphabet. The option to be creative is still there - each letter is handcrafted in MDF and comes in a raw finish, so they can be painted any colour. The collection spans a huge 2.5m x 1.5m of wall making them a feature of the room.

Gigi Alphabet by Noosh
Picture copyright of Lilly & Lolly

Gigi Alphabet by Noosh

If you prefer something more sophisticated than an alphabet, Noosh have two geometric designs in their range. They too can be custom painted by you to be the perfect fit for your home. Purchase one or more sets and place the designs in any arrangement to personalise them further.

Joey Geo Shapes by Noosh (seven pieces per set)

Poppy Teardrops by Noosh (six pieces per set)

Poppy Teardrops by Noosh (six pieces per set)
Picture copyright of Lilly & Lolly
I spotted the Noosh wall designs at Australian online store The Little Kidz Closet.
And I'm not sure, but in the above photo I think I spot a Little Lamb Freckle Rug?  

Little Lamb Freckle Rug by Down to the Woods

Little Lamb Freckle Rug by Down to the Woods

These divine rugs are designed by a young Australian company called Down to the Woods. They are handmade in Nepal from pure wool, and each one is unique. They are available in three sizes and can be purchased through Lark. Lark also has a matching Little Lamb Freckle Garland; 3 metres of pure gorgeousness!

Little Lamb Freckle Garland by Down to the Woods

Little Lamb Freckle Garland by Down to the Woods

Kids' rooms can be so much fun now, and there are never-ending possibilities for decorating. I love kids' bedrooms to be colourful, and I like the idea of the child having some input. Trouble is, given the choice, I think my daughter would choose pink. Pink pink pink. It's hard to get away from it when you have a girl! 

Thanks to Lark, Lilly & Lolly, and The Little Kidz Closet for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog permission to publish these images.