Illustrator & author: Janik Coat
Publisher Abrams Appleseed, 2015
Board book, AUD $17.95, ISBN: 978-1419715143
It was in a small, stylish graphic design bookstore near Canal St Martin where I first encountered the work of Janik Coat. That book, Je ne suis pas comme les autres, is not yet in English. There is something hard to capture in English, but it is brilliant: simple, funny and elegantly designed. The same can be said of all of Janik Coat’s work, which has appeared in a steady supply from some of France’s most creative publishers for the past decade.
Strictly speaking Rhymoceros is not a ‘French book in English’ since the US edition with Abrams Appleseed is the first publication. But the stylish look and execution is all French. A previous book, Hippopposites, appeared with the same publisher to acclaim in 2012.
Coat’s unique skill is to take a very simple concept – pare it back to an emblematic visual image – and then let the imagination run free on wordplay and visual nuances. The theme here is rhyme – and the interplay of sound and image offers constant delight. While the rhymes are simple – often just single words – the images have a degree if information to make the reading experience something of treasure hunt. Even on the simple, repeated template there are subtle clues and questions.
Some additional touch-and-feel pages are used sparingly (the book is the better for that), making the experience a highly engaging one.
Rhymoceros is a great book for parent and child to share, not only because adults will enjoy the simple yet sophisticated design. Parents will also welcome the invitation to seek-and-say so stylishly presented. That hippo’s blue silhouette carries extra information that both readers will enjoy puzzling over and finding and making connections.
While I would love to see Je ne suis pas comme les autres in English, Rhymoceros will do very nicely in the meantime.
About the illustrator
Born in 1972 in the Breton city of Rennes, Janik Coat studied at Beaux-arts de Nantes. She has published with some of the most creative houses in France including Editions MeMo, helium and Autrement. Coat’s work often begins in traditional media before translating to digital design. (How else to create those perfect curves?) Her first book, Popov et Samothrace, appeared in 2005. Animals are a constant subject in her work.