Modern day picture books for kids

Graphic designers are trying their hand at digital illustrations in these picture books



Illustration from "A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns"

There is a sentimentality that often comes with flipping through a picture book. For many, it conjures up memories of those first reading experiences; the exhilaration felt upon finding that ideas, characters and stories can all be neatly contained and bound in pages. Children’s books offer the opportunity to tell a story using illustrations, and this has attracted many artists to take on the challenge of bringing children’s stories to life. It is not surprising then that graphic artists are now also delving into children’s illustrations. 

At first glance, the slick and sophisticated logos and visuals created by design agencies may not seem like a great fit with children’s books, but graphic designers are carving out a niche for themselves in this industry. Their clever, bold and cutting-edge illustrated designs are actually a perfect fit for teaching children new concepts and introducing them to new art forms.


Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go (Harry N. Abrams, $22.95)
 by Cruschiform – Ages 5-8

Explaining speed to children is made easy with this visual book produced by French design firm Cruschiform. Each double-page spread describes a specific speed by providing illustrated examples of animals, insects, boats, cars and other forms of transportation that can travel at that speed. For instance, for 80 km/h, a Zodiac inflatable boat, a Sphinx moth and a pheasant are shown as examples. The speeds increase throughout the book, beginning with 0.3 km/h and ending with 100,000 km/h, which is illustrated by a shooting star. Only a handful of colours are used, with bright orange, yellow, royal blue and black dominating. The illustrations have sleek lines to suggest the motion and speed of the animals, planes, boats and other modes of transportation shown. Children will enjoy some of the specific examples used, such as the basilisk lizard, explorer Christopher Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria, the mako shark and the Farman MF 11BIS biplane. There is also a glossary that provides a definition of speed and short descriptions of the examples provided throughout the book.


Outstanding in the Rain: A Whole Story with Holes (Tundra Books, $21.99)
 by Frank Viva - Ages 3-7

Toronto native, Frank Viva, has his own branding and design agency that has worked with companies like Le Creuset and The Bay. He may seem like an unlikely candidate for a children’s author, but Viva has delved into the world of children’s literature with enthusiasm. With this book, his third, he takes readers on a journey to an amusement park, making a fun word game out of the pages. A little boy and his mother visit a Coney Island-like boardwalk on his birthday and experience the many pleasures and thrills the park has to offer. The little boy narrates the story, and a fun feature accompanies the short text — cut-outs in the pages surround letters that form a word, but when children flip the page, they can see that the letters are also part of another word. For instance, “handles” becomes “candles” once the page is turned. It is a great way to get children to think about how letters form words. The illustrations are done in brown, turquoise, red and orange and the way these bold colours are combined, from tiny dots to form the sky to big scoops of ice cream, will help children see how a few colours can be used to create so much.


A Zeal of Zebras: An Alphabet of Collective Nouns (Chronicle Books, $23.99)
 by Woop Studios – Ages 6-9

This art studio has created a unique ABC book about the collective nouns used to describe animals in groups. Readers will be surprised to learn that giraffes are referred to as a “journey” or that polar bears are an “aurora.” There is a short description that accompanies each animal, providing a few facts about the species. The full-page illustrations look like advertising posters from the 1950s and 60s. The animals are displayed in full splendour with lots of bright colours to highlight their beautiful details. Children will be surprised by the different names of the groups of animals. They can even search for other collective nouns once they are done learning these ones! A trip to the zoo will be a whole new experience after reading this book. 

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