Friday, May 17, 2013

Keep It Simple

Taro Gomi

Japanese author and artist Taro Gomi proves the power of simplicity when it comes to board books. Peekaboo! is mostly about encouraging the interplay between parent and child, or grandparent and child, or older sibling and child. The book itself becomes the conduit for a game of peekaboo.

His simplicity is easy to take for granted, yet it shows his mastery for connecting with his audience. He uses an animal or creature's prominent feature to define it. The bulging eyes of a frog set atop its head, the large round ears that dominate a mouse's triangular face. He uses solid colors and rudimentary shapes. The tickle monster is a purple blob ("I like to tickle. I am a monster"), and it looks cuddly rather than creepy because of two baby teeth and a popsicle-pink tongue hanging out. (Gomi uses this same strategy in Mommy! Mommy!: the bright pink comb atop the chicken's head becomes the identifying characteristic that leads the chicks to their mother, who's playing hide-and-seek with them.)

The die-cut holes in Peekaboo! allow adults or older siblings to look out at babies and toddlers through the eyes of the frog, mouse or tickle monster (and then segue into a tickle game, of course). It's such a simple idea, yet so rarely well executed. The design allows a baby to focus on the consistent placement of the eyes, the stated "fact" for each creature ("I like to eat cheese. I am a mouse"), and to "master" the tool of prediction. Bravo!

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