If it’s true that readers are made on the lap of their parents (and I am sure this is so), then a really good touch-and-feel book will help create that essential bond between the child and parent. Xavier Deneux’s My First Touch and Feel: Words Book is certainly something infants and parents will enjoy together. There are at least four levels of interaction to explore: the image, the word, the pairing and of course the textures.
The fun begins even before the first page. That smart red tunic on the cover is soft velour, so the child reader is already exploring the book from the moment we pick it up. Rounded corners make the book more comfortable to hold. The cover's red, blue and white colour palette is not gender specific and the figure is not strongly gendered either, which is to be applauded.
What’s inside? We encounter five paired images: a cat, a dog; a house and a hatching chick; a bicycle and a car; shoes and socks; and a ball and baby. While dominant colour palette is black and white with red highlights, primary colours are introduced, which will appeal well to young eyes. The opening spread is a simple, bold combination.
Some of the word pairs probably work better in French, as some of the English words miss the alliterative qualities of the original. It’s not a problem, but just a necessary quirk of translating simple nouns. For the touch-and-feel textures, each right-hand page offers a new sensory experience – and each one is an opportunity for the older and younger reader to talk and interact. The dog has a soft, velvety ear. The car has a ridged surface, and by strumming your finger upon it, the car will make engine sounds. The final page offers a soft grow-suit for a little baby, and affirms the child-centred experience of this delightful early stages book.
The publisher Twirl Books specialise in interactive books. Run your eye down the list of Twirl authors and the frequency of French names is striking. In fact, Twirl is a publishing partnership between Paris-based Éditions Tourbillon (part of Bayard Jeunesse) and Chronicle Books in San Francisco. Their hand-in-glove arrangement is a sign of the growing awareness among English language readers of just what French illustration and design has to offer. Christopher Franceschelli, a key player in the arrangement, explained the strategy behind Twirl Books to Publisher’s Weekly this way:
About the illustrator
Xavier Deneux lives and works in Paris. He specialises in designing and illustrating books for young children. He studied at Beaux-Arts de Paris and then took a diploma at the ecole supérieure des arts graphiques. He worked as a graphic designer, producing posters and decorations before dedicating his career to picture books. He has since created more than 50 titles.