Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Choosing the right books

Even before the arrival of little Anna Claire I'd been thinking of what books I want to her to have. When I was growing up in the '80s and the '90s the publishing business in the Soviet Union was at its worst. "Стране не хватает бумаги" ("The country is short of paper") was a constant refrain and a justification for paper imports from Finland. The bookstores were empty. I was subscribed to several children's magazines and read each issue cover to cover. Among my books there were too many stories of Vladimir Lenin's childhood and lives of the underprivileged. I grew up keen on propaganda, bureaucratic jargon and morally upright young pioneers. Even my mom had better books than I had.

Still, some books from my childhood left deep impressions, and I was happy to find some of them in a stack at our dacha (summer cottage). One of the books I read over and over was Rukavichka (The Mitten) from 1981:

(image from http://bob-many.livejournal.com/35475.html)

In anticipation of Anna's visit to Siberia my mom bought several essential Russian children's books. Most of them are new editions of time-tried classics with illustrations by great Soviet artists, and yet these books leave much to be desired in terms of design and typography.

I've been struggling to sum up why I dislike almost everything I see in the stores and trying to define the prerequisites of a tasteful and loveable children's book, and then I found this article on a Russian publisher's website:


To sum up the article, bookstores are looming with bright and glossy children's books; their covers are too busy, illustrations are at odds with the text, the characters are "cute" and unrealistic, the colors are toxic and the pages have little or no negative space. In the meantime, a good book-cover would be saying "Open me" rather than "Buy me," the colors would be made of natural pigments and look harmonious, there would be a tight relationship between illustrations, text and design... The article also warns against the marketing gimmick of "compiling" several books under one cover – something I've resented instinctively. It also mentions the impossibility of buying a beautiful children's toy or even a rattle... Better not get me started on THAT topic!
Tags: book, children's books

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