Last year, I read the interactive picture book, Mix It Up!, as part of a storytime session. The children in the group were aged from eighteen months to five years, which is quite a range developmentally. However, they were all mesmerised by the book, which asks the reader to use their hands and fingers to mix paint on the page. So, inspired by this experience, I have put together a list of seven interactive picture books.
Interactive books come in several different formats. Some invite the reader to engage physically with the book. This can be through touch and feel books, which generally have simple statements on each page, such as the That’s Not My….series. Then there are flap and tab books, which include the Spot series by Eric Hill. These have narrative storylines and children can participate in the story by lifting flaps and pulling tabs to reveal surprises in the illustrations.
The books I have chosen for this list are ones in which the children take part in the storytelling experience by engaging actively with the book as part of the narrative. A narrator, either seen or unseen, talks to the reader, usually asking them to do something to make something else happen in the story. Humour is a strong feature of these books, which are a lot of fun to read and play with.
So, without further ado, here are the interactive books I have chosen for you…
Mix It Up!
Written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet
Use your hand to mix up the colours. It’s like magic.
Smudge, rub, shake and have fun!
This book is a fully immersive experience for children, who have to tap and rub paint spots to create new colours. They can also mix the ‘paint’ by closing the book and tilting the pages. As with many of the interactive books on this list, there is a strong sense of cause and effect; when I do this, that happens. Even though no actual paint is involved in the reading experience, it can form part of a follow-up activity to reinforce what has been learnt.
Hervé Tullet has created several other interactive books: Press Here, Let’s Play! and Say Zoop! Each of these offers young children the opportunity to become fully involved in the reading experience.
The Scared Book
Written by Debra Tidball and illustrated by Kim Siew
This book is too scared to tell you its story because there are MONSTERS! Can you help?
It needs you to RUB away its goosebumps, FLICK away the monsters and FAN away the yucky smell they have left behind.
The unseen narrator of this book is unable to tell the reader the story because there are scary monsters in the book. Each double-page spread has a problem, which the child is required to solve through doing a particular action. For example, “there’s a tingle in my spine”, which needs a scratch, and goosebumps, which need to be rubbed away. Finally, with the reader’s help, all the monsters have gone because “you frightened them away”. I like the way this book encourages a sense of kindness and empathy. Through the actions of the child, the narrator is no longer scared. This provides a good starting point for ways in which we can reach out and help others who may be anxious or afraid of something.
Debra Tidball has also written When I See Grandma, which, like The Scared Book, was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year. Using Rachel William’s photographs, Kim Siew has illustrated the book, You Make the Dreams, written by Peter Warrington.
Don’t Touch This Book!
Written and illustrated by Bill Cotter
This is Larry’s supercool new book. Isn’t it great? You probably want to read it, but…
Don’t touch this book!
Okay, okay! But you can only touch it with ONE finger.
Whoa. How’d you do that?
Larry the purple monster is the narrator of this book. He gets to decide who can touch his book, because it has his picture on the cover. But he soon lets the reader play, asking them to drag one finger down the page. Hey presto! A streak of blue appears. Soon a rainbow covers the page. Larry then encourages the child to do different actions, which result in amazing changes in the illustrations. When a T-Rex appears, the reader can help Larry escape. This is a fun and highly interactive book, which will have children moving around like robots, roaring like dinosaurs and flapping their wings madly. Be prepared for a very noisy and active storytime!
Larry the purple monster appears in three other books: Don’t Push the Button!, Don’t Push the Button! A Christmas Adventure and Don’t Push the Button! A Halloween Treat. A fifth book, Don’t Push the Button! An Easter Surprise will be published next month. So there is plenty of fun to be had with Larry!
Is There a Dog in This Book?
Written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
PS: There is a book in this dog!
Tiny, Moonpie and André, the three cats from There Are Cats in This Book (which I reviewed in a previous post), think there might be a dog in their book. The reader has to hide them from it by turning and lifting flaps. Despite their help, the cats end up face-to-face with a very frisky pooch. But they soon discover that dogs are not as scary as the cats thought they were. I really like the way the characters engage directly with the child, telling them what to do and what not to do! There is humour on each page as the cats try to hide from the dog and the illustrations are delightful.
I love Viviane Schwarz’s books. They are so much fun and they are filled with cats and now a dog! Last year, she released two books featuring Tiny Cat: Animals with Tiny Cat and Counting with Tiny Cat. These promise to be as enjoyable as her others.
Written and illustrated by Jef Czekaj
“I’m sorry-this book is not for you. This book is for CATS ONLY. What’s that you say? You are a cat. Okay… get ready to prove it!”
In this book, three cats try to prevent the reader from turning the pages, because “this book is for CATS only!” In order to check that only cats are reading the book, they set a series of tests. Firstly they want to hear the reader meow and purr. Then they ask them to stretch like a cat. Finally they have to take a cat nap. This results in the cats falling asleep and a mouse sneaking up and reading the book! Like Viviane Schwarz’s books, the whole of the text is in speech bubbles, with the cats directly conversing with the reader. There are also lots of funny comments as the cats talk amongst themselves: “Hmm. That was actually a pretty good meow” and “I’m still not convinced. Let’s hear them purr“. By taking the tests, the child immerses themselves in the reading experience. They are also able to follow the mouse who appears throughout the story as it attempts to grab the book!
Jef Czekaj is a cartoonist, as well as a children’s author and illustrator, and this shows in his work. He has created three other picture books, including a companion to Cat Secrets: Dog Rules, which looks just as funny.
Tap the Magic Tree
Written and illustrated by Christie Matheson
There is magic in every tree. The tall, silent one in the woods. The small, bumpy one in the park. Even the bare brown tree in your backyard.
As the seasons change, trees change too. They sprout leaves. The leaves change colour. Sometimes flowers bloom. Sometimes apples grow. Trees shelter birds and feed squirrels and bees.
There is magic in every tree. And in this book, you become the magician. How? Tap, clap, wiggle, jiggle and then… turn the page.
On each double-page spread of Tap The Magic Tree, there is a picture of a tree and instructions for the reader. After following these, they turn the page and discover what has happened. A tap on the tree results in a green leaf appearing. More taps and the tree is covered in new foliage. Rubbing the tree brings buds, whilst shaking the tree causes the ripe apples to fall. The orange and yellow leaves of autumn drop off the branches when the reader blows on the page, whilst clapping makes snow fall. Finally a bird makes a nest in the tree and a baby chick hatches. And in this way, the seasonal cycle begins again. I love the way children can interact with every page of this book, through the different actions that help the tree move from one season to the next. At the same time, the features of each season are gently presented for them to learn about.
Christie Matheson has written several other interactive books, including Plant the Tiny Seed and Touch the Brightest Star. Like Tap The Magic Tree, these focus on nature, exploring rhythms and life cycles in the natural world.
Play This Book
Written by Jessica Young and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
“To start our show we need a band-maybe you can lend a hand!”
There are lots of ways little hands can make music. Each page of this interactive book invites readers to STRUM, TAP, CRASH-PLAY!
With a delightful rhyming text and engaging illustrations, this book is full of instruments waiting to share their sounds. The only thing this band needs is YOU! Just use your imagination, turn the pages and PLAY THIS BOOK!
I really like this book. Like Cat Secrets, the actions required of the reader relate directly to the storyline. This means that they strum a guitar (which is big enough for that action), pat a drum creating a beat, tap the keys on a keyboard, shake some maracas, play a saxophone and a trombone, and crash the cymbals (by closing the book!). At the same time, the child can make the noise of the instrument they are playing. So be prepared for a very noisy storytime!
Jessica Young and Daniel Wiseman have also worked together on Pet This Book, which is all about taking care of animals. I may have to find a copy of this!
I hope you have enjoyed this list of interactive books. If you do read them with children, be warned, it will get very rowdy! But remember, that will be a measure of how much they are engaging with the books.
Click on the book cover image to link to the source. Quotes taken from the blurb and content of the books.