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For Young Readers
Vibrant Picture Books from Other Shores

By Kristi Jemtegaard
Sunday, September 7, 2008

ABC3D By Marion Bataille Neal | Porter/Roaring Brook, $19.95; all ages

The forthcoming ABC3D, by Marion Bataille, a French book designer, does for paper what Claymation did for mud. It's a three-dimensional, interactive, cinematic treat for the littlest fingers right on up to the oldest eyes, easily the most innovative alphabet book of the year, if not the decade. It's virtually impossible not to find something to manipulate, admire, chuckle over or just plain play with between the holographic covers of this visual feast. Watch O and P transform themselves into Q and R with the flick of a translucent overlay; see C flip over to become D and back again merely by moving the page; marvel as V becomes W through the magic of reflections; smile as the two round centers of S spin like barber poles; play U like a many-stringed instrument and imagine the music.

Beyond clever, it's a whole new way for young learners to see both connections and differences as well as for adults to rediscover the magic that lurks below the everyday. A short video of two disembodied hands flipping through the pages has garnered more than half a million views on YouTube. Wonderful fun for one and all.

TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES By Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury | Harcourt, $16; ages 3 to 5

English author/illustrator Helen Oxenbury, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, teamed up with celebrated Australian illustrator/author Mem Fox for this around-the-world look at babyhood, to be published next month. The happy result is a jig-along rhyme sure to delight parents and tots alike. "There was one little baby who was born far away. And another who was born on the very next day. And both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes." As the rollicking rhythm continues, a variety of chubby knees, belly buttons and tousled heads join the fingers and toes of the refrain in a jolly homage to the similarities and differences of infants across the globe. Blonde top-knots, springy black curls, haystack red straw and sleek black hair surround smiling, frowning, sneezing or contemplative baby faces. Anyone who has ever tweaked a little piggy will quickly start chanting the infectious refrain from this "digital" romp.

THE BLACK BOOK OF COLORS By Menena Cottin and Rosana Faría | Groundwood, $17.95; ages 5 to 10

From Venezuela comes a graphically sophisticated book by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faría with the curious title The Black Book of Colors. Designed for both sighted and visually impaired children, the evocative text translates colors into congruent sensory experiences ("Green tastes like lemon ice cream and smells like grass that's just been cut. . . . Yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick's feathers.") while each embossed facing page invites finger-tip exploration of an individual image. The text appears in Braille across the top of the page and in bold white letters across the bottom, and the entire Braille alphabet is included at the end of the book. Breathtaking in simplicity, bold in impact.

I FEEL A FOOT! By Maranke Rinck and Martijn van der Linden | Lemniscaat, $16.95; ages 2 to 6

Maranke Rinck and Martijn van der Linden of the Netherlands offer a different approach to a similar topic in I Feel a Foot!. In an adaptation of an old Sufi tale (perhaps most familiar to American children from Ed Young's 1993 Caldecott Honor title, Seven Blind Mice), Turtle, Bat, Octopus, Bird and Goat all explore various parts of a patient pachyderm with predictably different results. A jaunty text carries the story from first guess ("a super big turtle") to last ("A fantastically, amazingly extra superduper big goat") before elephant asserts himself with a tremendous bellow. Jewel-toned collage illustrations set against a flat black background create an eye-popping counterpoint to the text and are a harbinger of the all-fabric hand-sewn edition planned for later this fall.

Kristi Jemtegaard is the Youth Services Coordinator for Arlington Public Library. She teaches children's and adolescent literature and has served on both the Caldecott and Newbery Committees.

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