Book Review- Touch and Feel Shapes

An In-Depth Review of a Children's Book

front cover

When you read children's books, you get to know DK books through their omnipresent "My First Word" book series. We always had the impression that DK books were well thought out, well designed and easy to understand. But then someone gave us Touch & Feel: Shapes... it made me wonder what sort of people produced it...

Theoretical transcript of the planning meeting
for Touch & Feel: Shapes

Editor #1: What's the gimmick for this one again?

Editor #2: You know, kids will get to feel the textures of shapes... you know, like circles and squares.

E #1: What texture does a circle have? I just don't get this.

Editor #3: Well, how about if we take a piece of a basketball and call it a "bumpy orange." That would be a circle for you.

E #1: Why not have a piece of a basketball and call it a basketball?

E #2: Come on, you need to use your imagination. Be proactive and think outside the box. I can write a "Touch & Feel" book with my eyes closed. I wrote sixteen this week.

E #3: How about buttons? Kids love buttons. They're circles, and they have smaller circles inside of them. They're perfect!!

E #2: Buttons, yes! Also we could have... (looking around room) a compact disc, a plate, and... (rooting in drawer) a round purse!

E #1: A round purse? I've never seen a round purse. How about a flower... they're round. Or some balls...

E #2: I've got a round purse right here. I knitted it myself. We can send it down to the photo department.

E #1: How about some coins from the purse? Kids are far more likely to have seen coins or even a bicycle tire than that homemade purse.

E #3: You're right about the purse... it's homey. I like it.

E #1: OK, OK, use the purse. Sheesh. I guess that's enough things for the "circles" page. How about things for a "squares" page? Dice?

E #2: Um... squares... hmmm... building blocks? For the textured one, we can have a silky cushion. That's a square. And a square present.

E #1: A square present? Why would a present be square? It could just as easily be a rectangle or a circle.

E #2: Well, this book will be square. Maybe it will remind the kids of when they got the book itself as a gift and give them a nice warm feeling...

E #3: How about buttons? I'll bet we can find a bunch of square buttons! Big ones, and maybe some small ones, in different colors. That would look nice.

E #1: How about a kitchen table? A window pane? A record sleeve? A saltine? A garage door? A computer disk? A block of...

E #2: OK, it's settled! (writing) Square: dice, building blocks, silky cushion, present and some buttons! We'll have this book done in no time. I've got four of these to do before lunch.

E #3: The big buttons could represent the parents, and the little buttons could represent children. That would be a nice touch, kind of like a little "play-within-a-play" thing.

E #1: Is my name going to appear on this book?

E #2: I don't think any names will appear on this book.

E #1: Good. Great. OK, what other shapes do we need...

E #2: Triangles? (looking out window) Um... how about... those little flags they have on a string at the gas station? Those are triangles.

E #3: Oh, I know... a triangle! You know, the musical instrument that goes ding, ding, ding... when they call people for dinner, like in those old timey western movies.

E #1: Maybe we can think of something that's not the actual name of the shape itself... um... A pizza slice? A road cone? A wizard hat? A wedge of cheese?

E #3: I've got it... triangular buttons! And we could set them up... oh my God... I'm having a brainstorm! Triangular buttons would be so cool if they were arranged into a... LARGER TRIANGLE!!!

E #2: Genius. Sheer genius. We'll win the Caldecott Medal for this one for sure. (writing) Little triangular flags, a triangle like you ring at chow time and buttons. Man, I love that button idea.

E #1: (inaudible)

E #3: Now, how about... rectangles?

E #2: OK, hmmm.... rectangles... let's look in the old desk drawer... (rooting around) Oh! How about this fluffy pencil case? I made this one too.

E #1: Sure. And, hey, be sure to make it extra furry.

E #2: Exactly! We can put a swatch of orange fur! That's the kind of kooky thing kids really go for these days. Orange fur! Groovy! Uh, I mean, Fresh!

E #3: Oh, oh... I've got one... how about...

E #1: Rectangular buttons?

E #3: No, everyone knows that they don't make rectangular buttons, dumbell. How about two square buttons really close to each other so they look like a rectangle.

E #2: I think that would really belong on the "square" page. Maybe... (rooting in drawer) a comb?

E #1: You're having trouble coming up with rectangles? I think it's the most common shape there is. How about a door, a window, a fish tank, a television, a piece of paper, a book, a magazine, a photograph... I could come up with a couple of hundred really great ones in a few minutes if you like.

E #2: No, no, that's fine. We've got all we need with the fluffy pencil case and the comb, thanks. Now on to... uh... let's see, how does it go... circle, square, triangle, rectangle...

E #1: Hexagon? Pentagon?

E #3: Yeah, sure, mister geometry. Why not put in a sleeping pill for the kids, ya fuddy duddy? I say "ovals."

E #2: Now what can we put... that's a tough one. I gotta tell ya, first thing I think of is a tortoise. That and a coconut.

E #1: How about an egg?

E #2: I was thinking we'd have a category called "egg-shaped" or something like that.

E #1: How about a mango?

E #3: You two are making me hungry. No more food. How about a balloon?

E #1: Isn't that egg-shaped?

E #2: Perfect... (writing) oval: tortoise, coconut, balloon.

E #3: How about hearts? There must be plenty of "heart shaped" things.

E #1: I can't think of a single thing that's "heart shaped." Even a heart isn't really "heart shaped."

E #3: What? Of course a heart is "heart shaped." What other shape could it be?

E #2: I've got it... heart-shaped sunglasses! And they can be "smooth" sunglasses. Kids will love to feel the texture of "smooth."

E #1: As opposed to the smooth page which will surround them?

E #2: Just make them shiny. They'll eat it up.

E #3: You know what I'm going to say, don't you?

E #1: Oh gee... buttons?

E #3: Oh! Oh! That's a great idea! I was actually going to say "cookies." They can be heart-shaped... but buttons! Now you're talking turkey!

E #2: Now we're almost done... buttons, cookies and sunglasses. Now for the next shape... how about diamonds?

E #1: Are there diamond-shaped buttons?

E #3: I don't think so.

E #1: Then diamonds it is!

E #2: Hmmm... diamonds... but no buttons... tricky.

E #3: How about candies?

E #1: I can't remember seeing a diamond-shaped candy. Maybe a kite? Or a road sign? Or even a diamond?

E #2: OK, candies, kite... uh... I'll bet if we took a picture of ravioli and turned it diagonally it would look like a diamond. But let's make it sweeter, like...

E #3: Candy?

E #2: No... a fruit tart! That's it! Oh man, those snobs who give out the Newbery Medal better not ignore me this year.

E #1: I think fruit tarts are usually round.

E #2: Whatever. Next shape... stars! That's a good one... how about... uh...

E #1: Star fruit?

E #2: Yeah, that's pretty good... (rooting in drawer) hey! Here's a star-shaped toy! Cool!

E #1: How about a starfish?

E #2: (squeak) Hey, this little guy squeaks! Nifty! (squeak) Can we work that into the book somehow?(squeak, squeak, squeak)

E #3: Oh, I've got another star... a magic wand, like that Harry Potters has! And for the texture we can make it shiny!

E #1: Um, I don't know how you define "texture," but I'm pretty sure "shiny" is not a texture.

E #2: What? "Shiny" is a texture... look at a mirror! There's a definite texture there!

E #1: Please, for the love of God, just make it a starfish and use that basketball stuff to make it bumpy!

E #2: Look, I really don't like this whole smart attitude you have. I mean, did you write Touch & Feel: Clothes or Touch & Feel: 123? I'm pushing the envelope of the textured book world, friend. And I don't think I saw you in the meeting when we wrote Touch & Feel: NFL. That's a children's book officially licensed by the National Football League, amigo. If we don't win a Carnegie for that one, I'll eat my hat.

(Yes, this is a real book)

E #1: I'm not sure you should really be proud of that, I mean... who wants to feel the NFL? Does it smell like sweaty socks?

E #2: Hey, I've got friends in the "Scratch and Sniff" division who wouldn't think you were very funny. Look, you young hotheads with your smart ideas always try to shake things up in the "Touch & Feel" division, but we like things here just fine, thank you very much. If you want to be with the eggheads, go over to the "My First Word" division.

E #3: Come on you two, let's get the back cover done and get this thing finished. I've got to get down to the sewing store and pick up a few things.

E #2: OK... I like that shiny star. I think that's going to be the one kids will remember...

E #1: (Inaudible)

E #2: ...so how about we make it say "Would you like to feel the shiny star?" or "touch a star" or something like that... and then something like "Come inside and feel all the shapes..."

E #3: Just make sure there's a big button on the back cover, so kids will know that there's lots of buttons in the book. Nothing says love like a giant heart-shaped button.

© 2004, Ken B. Miller & Contributors as Listed. | Reproduced from Shouting at the Postman #52, January, 2004 | 5379

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