- Author: Shirley Hughes
- Illustrator: Clara Vulliamy (The author and illustrator are mother and daughter!)
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Intended for: Ages 5 to 8
- Perfect for: Anyone who appreciates beautiful bookmaking.
This book sure is beautiful to look at. I admit that I’m featuring this book because of its parts, and how well they’ve been put together to create a great reading experience. Don’t get me wrong, the story is good too, but I think the overall package of the book brings the story to another level.
In order to make any book, there are a million decisions to make, by many people. Just some of the things are:
• What font should be used?
A readable font is certainly necessary, especially at the early chapter book stage of reading, but additional “fun” fonts add to the design of the book as well and add some tone to the book (seriousness, scariness, playfulness, messiness, etc.).
• What size should the type be?
Type size is important for readability and accessibility. If type size is too big for a chapter book or middle grade novel, it may come off as babyish. If type size is too small for an early chapter book, it may put off a struggling reader. But type size can also be a design element as well, adding emphasis (if a character is yelling the type size may be increased. If a character is whispering, type size may be reduced).
• How much leading should there be?
The amount of space between lines and words is more important than you think. Too much or too little can make a book look appear that it’s for a much younger or older audience than intended. When it’s just right for the age group, everything feels, well, just right. Younger books should be very airy with enough room between words and sentences so the pages aren’t crowded and allow for the earliest of readers to be able to follow along with the text with no problems. As readers get older, space can be tighter (but not too tight) and more words can be on the page.
• What should the trim size be?
This, in my opinion, is one of the most important decisions in book creation. Whether it’s a picture book, early chapter book, or middle grade or young adult novel, trim size communicates something to the reader. It may communicate tone or alert readers to what’s inside (something BIG or something special and dainty). An unusual trim size (basically anything that’s not the norm) will always make me pick a book up. I always want to see why the trim size was chosen, and what it adds to the book.
• What type of paper should be used?
You may not think of it in a conscious way, but the paper used has a subtle (but big—or at least to me) impact on the reading experience. Decisions have to be made on the weight of the paper, the color, and the smoothness. For example, the pages in Digby O’Day are stark white, which lends itself well to the pencil and ink drawings and makes the pinks and reds throughout the book really pop. If the pages were more ivory, the colors wouldn’t appear as bold. One of my favorite “page feels,” or the smoothness of the pages, is in the first couple of Harry Potter books. The pages have a substantial feel to them, and they are smoother than the rest of the books in the series. Like I said, it’s a subtle difference, but when I first began reading the series, it stuck out to me. The book felt special because of the extra weight and slickness to the pages. That type of paper must be very expensive because as the books got bigger, the weight and feel of the pages were different. (On the adult side of books, I cannot even imagine the cost of the paper in Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Those pages are slick and thick like the best cardstock out there. Holy moly!)
I could go on and on about decisions, but this is already getting long. What it comes down to is that I think that the people involved in this book made some very good choices. One of those choices was to add images to the Contents page. This gives readers a little taste of what the chapters will be about and I love it! Crowded sheep in chapter five? What’s going on? Feet in the air in chapter seven? I gotta find out what that’s all about!
Another good decision was adding some elements I’ve never seen before in an early chapter book:
• An introduction to the characters in the book
• An interview with the main character
• An full spread at the end of the book introducing the author and illustrator
These are fun additions that make the book feel extra special.
The story is truly child-friendly in that there is lots of action, the main characters are dogs (most kids love dogs, right?), and there are mishaps galore. What I especially like about the story is that no matter what troubles Digby comes across, he likes to do the right thing. So even if it means not winning the race he’s entered, he’s happy to stop and offer help to the people in a broken down car on the side of the road.
Pick up a copy and tell me what your favorite element of the book is.