Sunday, February 12, 2012

Press Here

We had an unexpected snowstorm here this week.  Well, I did read the newspaper the day before the storm, and noted that there would be "light snow showers".  So it isn't the fact that it did snow that was surprising, it's the fact that those light snow showers dumped more than four inches of snow on the ground that was surprising.  My girls and I aren't huge play outdoors in the cold kind of people - our time outdoors in the snow is mostly limited to going to and from the car.  So when it's winter our small condo can feel even smaller.  That's why a book like Press Here is so invaluable.  I am not exaggerating when I  say that this book is magic.

Tullet starts with a large yellow dot and an instruction - "Press here and turn the page".  Immediately you can tell this is no ordinary "interactive" book, where children are instructed by the text or prompted by a parent to make noises, shout louder, or answer the narrator's question.  This is also not in the style of the electronically interactive book, full of bells and whistles that aren't directly related to the text and story.  No, instead the child is truly interacting with the physical book.  A word of advice here - this really isn't a storytime book for more than a couple of readers.  Otherwise you will have mass chaos, shoving and pushing as everyone wants to follow the instructions!  Each page includes an instruction from the narrator ("shake the book one more time", "press hard on all the dots.  Really hard.") and here's the magic part - it really looks like you've done something!  When you turn the page after pressing that first yellow dot, you see that there are now two yellow dots.  Later in the book, you tilt the page to the left, and when you turn the page, all of the dots have moved to the left side of the page.  This technique is so clever!

There are two things that make this book so perfect for preschoolers.  One of these is the unique way Tullet incorporates basic concepts into this book.  There are dots of all colors in this book, and children are sometimes instructed only to touch specific colors: "Try pressing down really hard on ALL the yellow dots."  So children learn their colors.  They are also expected to follow directions like pressing lightly, tapping a certain number of times, and moving the book in a certain direction (up, left, down).  It incorporates all of these concepts in short, easy to interpret instructions.  The tone is friendly and conspiratorial "Now tilt the page to the left...just to see what happens."  Preschoolers scramble to interact with this book.

Another thing that attracts preschoolers to this book is control.  We all know that preschoolers do not have much control and power in this world.  They are dictated to and directed all day long, whether at school or at home.  This book is so seductive because they can control the way the book turns out.  Dots grow when they clap their hands; the dots shift from side to side when readers tilt the book.  Instead of being told the story, they are the story.  And what's amazing, at least in my house, is that this power is exciting through multiple readings.  When I first brought this home from the library, I thought this book was a one-trick pony - that once my girls had experienced it, that would be it.  But this book is not so easily cast aside.  Both Frances and Gloria continue to return to it repeatedly, with shrieks and scuffles each time.

The text is very brief - no more than two lines of text per page - in a handwritten font.  The pages are mostly white, with the dots in primary colors.  Teachers of older children could use this book as an art lesson, as the dots mix colors, turning orange and green.  They could also look at how the dots focus readers' attention and keep the book from feeling too plain, even though it is composed of dots.  The book is simple, but has a huge impact.  It is simple but powerful too.  I'll be buying one of these for my daughters' preschool.  I recommend you buy one too.  You'll be pressing here along with your chosen child.  Enjoy!

Press Here.  Hervé Tullet.  Chronicle Books, 2011

borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library

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