Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Let's Get Physical by Kath Jewitt
Our guest blogger this month is Kath Jewitt, who has a busy career in children's books as an editor, writer and project manager. She works particularly on books with add-ons such as flaps and moving parts.
I want to make something clear before I start. I am not a technophobe, or whatever the new-fangled word is for not getting on well with technology. I am most definitely an enthusiastic purchaser of e-books and apps for my kids (ok – so I bought Angry Birds for myself). It's just that when it comes to sharing bedtime stories, I get a little picky.
I want a book – and it's not just the content I am talking about here, though of course that is somewhat crucial. It's the 'physical object', the actual 'bookiness' of the book that I am referring to – the smooth paper or card, the black words on a white page, the gradations of colour and tone in different styles of artwork, the folds, the flaps, the die-cuts, the matt laminate (a personal favourite) ... I’m sure you get the point.
I don't know if it's something to do with the fact my husband I make pop-up books for a living that I have such an overeager appreciation of the physical properties of books (I do so love a well-executed fold), but I think it's more than that. There's something about the feel of a book in your hands, its simple physical presence that makes a book so much more intimate a companion than a file on an e-reader – particularly when it comes to snuggling up in bed or on the sofa with a small child.
The word 'interactive' (defined by the Oxford Dictionary online as ‘two people or things influencing each other’) seems to have been annexed by the digital world these days, but I can't think of a more interactive activity than a child and companion sharing a brilliant book together. Reading a book is not only about the story and the images, though they are obviously at the very heart of the experience. It's also about touching, and turning, and pointing, and laughing, and turning back, and flicking forward, maybe lifting a few flaps ... it's about developing key coordination skills, not to mention a relationship with the book and your reading companion.
‘Relationship’ may sound pretentious, I know, but I'm not sure how else to describe the rapport a child can develop with a favourite book. I've lost count of the number of times I've tried to throw out a tatty old copy I thought my children had grown out of, only for them to throw a wobbler, as if I am threatening to throw out their best friend. And I’m pretty sure it is not just me who feels this way. The feeling is embodied in a conversation I had with a friend not long ago. She was bemoaning the fact that she had loaned a favourite book to an acquaintance and that said person had ... horror of horrors ... offered to give her a brand new copy to replace the by now dog-eared original. "It just wouldn't be the same – it wouldn't be MY book!" she wailed. I just can't imagine feeling that way about a pdf ...