My First Touch-and-Feel Words Book

My First Touch and Feel Words Book

Illustrator & author Xavier Duneux

Publisher: Twirl Books

Hbk; 12pp including cover; AUD $14.95; ISBN 9782848019802

Translator Michael Shneider

French Edition: Éditions Tourbillon, Paris, 2012

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.

Bold contrasts and simple pairings work well in young hands

Bold contrasts and simple pairings work well in young hands

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.

A burst of primary colours in the final spread

A burst of primary colours in the final spread

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:

Bayard saw that Chronicle had been successful with English-language editions of some of their titles (ed: including Hervé Tullet), and wanted to get their feet wet in the U.S. market. What’s special here beyond the usual distribution relationship, where the distributee publisher shows up with a bag of books and says, ‘Here, sell them,’ is that Chronicle’s editorial and marketing teams entered into discussion with their counterparts at Éditions Tourbillon to help fine-tune the Twirl list and select titles we thought would be right, not only for the North American market, but the U.K. market as well.

And presumably for everywhere else English is spoken. 

Thanks to Leslie Lambert at The Little Bookroom, where I bought the book. I look forward to exploring more from Twirl Books soon. You can see the complete current list here.

Detail from back cover

Detail from back cover

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.