Mix It Up
Author & Illustrator Hervé Tullet
Allen & Unwin, 2014, board book, AUD $19.99; 978-2747051309, 32pp
French Edition Couleurs, Bayard Jeunesse, 2014
Creating something simple is always a lot harder than it looks. Rather than being the first thing that pops into your head, capturing the essential elements is usually the end result of years of refinement. What could be more fundamental to a picture book than the question of colour? Hervé Tullet has been publishing since 1994 and latest book is a joyful demonstrates that simple doesn’t mean easy. Mix It Up is a massive invitation to young children to discover and create.
There is something pleasingly anarchic about a book that encourages – indeed, demands – the reader make a mess. Mix It Up makes the reader not just a viewer but also a participant. (Working in a bookshop, it's fascinating to see children pick up this book and quietly explore the possibilities.)
Here is a mess with a meaning as the young reader experiences the magic of mixing colours. Young readers will discover what happens when blue contacts green, or red contacts blue by the pressing and turning of pages. They not only see but also make the magic happen. It’s this invitation to be physically involved in handling the book-as-object that makes Mix It Up much more than just another book about colours. It’s a magic lantern of a book: a game, a lesson, an object, and a road to discovery. Rub, press, flip and reveal – for most children, their first wish will be to do it again.
There is sophistication buried beneath the surface simplicity and adult readers will marvel at the magic, too. As adults, we rediscover the joys felt when we first mixed colours. This is a book that, as a shared experience, offers moments of wonder. Children putting brush to paint and paper will use the discoveries to experiment and learn for themselves. They will want to get mixing and experimenting right away. And you will want to join in too.
About the illustrator
Hervé Tullet was born in Normandy and grew up in Paris. He studied fine art and decorative arts, publishing illustrations in magazines before his first book Comment Papa a rencontré Maman appeared in 1994. In 1998 won the Bologna International Prize for Non-Fiction for Faut Pas Confondre (Must Not Confuse). Now with more than 60 books published, Tullet is read and enjoyed in more than 25 languages. His work explores the possibilities of the book: how we read it, how we make meaning and how we can interact beyond just words or images. Tullet's book re-inscribe the presence of visual language in our lives.
“When you are starting out (as a child) you are learning a verbal language and a visual language at that same time, and they are more easily kind of related to each other. As the verbal language triumphs the visual one fades and you become inhibited and you don’t want to do it and you don’t want to show that you don’t do it as well as other people."
In Australia, Hervé Tullet is published by Allen & Unwin. They also publish Press Here. (Thanks to A&U for sending me these books.)
For a complete list of books in English, see Hervé's website.