“It’s just right,” the Baby Bear of Goldilocks’ fame exclaims each time every other household object is too hard, too soft, too high, too low, too hot and too cold for Momma Bear and Poppa Bear.
It is a pleasant sort of state of being, but what might it mean to produce books that are “just right” for little readers?
“Surely the text and the illustrations are what matter,” the content-driven conscience of the parent reasons. And surely the parent is right. The contours of worlds that we introduce to children through this book or that book do matter.
But since stories take on shape to dwell among us, those bookish skeletons matter too. They determine the way that we, or our young readers, experience the story.
As Woolies for the Winter prepares to take shape between sheets of pressed board and inky paper, here are some priorities, formed by our own experiences as mothers, that have shaped our design and decision-making:
1. Weight and Material.
Since we have written this book for the youngest of readers—including those just learning to flip pages and visually follow the scribbles on the printed page, we wanted to make sure that all of our readers could handle the pages confidently. For this reason, we decided that Woolies would feel most at home in a board book. The pages are thick enough for little fingers to turn, and because of its cardboard weight, the spreads stay open for little readers.
The other great advantage of the board book is its durability. This is a premium when piling a whole hoard of children onto your lap to read. Babies, in particular, learn and explore by touching and sometimes even tasting the world around them. As mothers of toddlers, we know how important it is that our book be capable of withstanding it all.
3. Easy to find.
This might sound funny, but we want children to be able to locate the book easily on a bookshelf, so we have contentiously planned the spine match the same color scheme as the front cover. By observing how our own children approach the bookshelf, we’ve discovered that this small but important detail really does help them locate their story-time favorites.
4. Size and Orientation
It is important to us that the children readers are interested in perusing Woolies on their own, so we have created a book that fits comfortably in their laps when opened. Since we also hope parents will read along with their children, participating with the pictures as they read—like the image of Laura’s fabulous, Scandinavian-print mittens— we have made the page big enough for adult hands too.
What sorts of subtle features have you found helpful for the books your children love most?
Special thanks to Hannah Wegmann for the use of her enchanting photo.