May 06, 2010


Bee & Me. By Elle J. McGuinness. Illustrated by Heather Brown. Animation created by Jeffrey Charles Cole and Heather Brown. Accord Publishing/Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

Zoo Babies. By Paula Hannigan. Illustrations by Heather Brown. Animation created by Jeffrey Charles Cole and Heather Brown. Accord Publishing/Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

Trucks. By Paula Hannigan. Illustrations by Shannon Chandler. Animation created by Jeffrey Charles Cole and Shannon Chandler. Accord Publishing/Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

     Lenticular photography has a long and honorable history. It was, among other things, the basis of the Kodacolor process that made it possible to shoot color images using black-and-white film. And that process, which dates all the way back to 1928, was itself based on earlier lenticular work. What does this have to do with three clever new board books from Accord Publishing? Well, the modern version of lenticular printing makes still objects seem to move when seen from different angles – and has been used in everything from advertising to novelty prizes in Cracker Jack boxes. Thanks to the precision placement and photography made possible by computers, lenticular motion looks better than ever these days, and can now be done inexpensively enough to enhance children’s books – indeed, to provide a significant part of their enjoyment.

     That is what happens in all three of these short books. The Bee & Me board book is an abridged version of the original Bee & Me, which appeared last year and which also featured color “moving” pictures of a bee that gets trapped behind window glass and uses the opportunity to teach a little boy about the importance of bees in general. This shortened version still contains a modicum of the ecological awareness that was a big element of the original book – told in poetry that does not rhyme or scan very well but does argue its points effectively: “We’re good for much more than just honey, you see,/ We bees help the flowers, the bushes and trees./ We gather their pollen and spread it around –/ The only way to keep them growing, we’ve found.” Four of the five animations here (Accord calls the process “AniMotion”) show the bee chased by the family dog, trapped by the window, wiggling its body and shedding a tear; the fifth shows a flower apparently moving in the breeze. The book’s remaining, non-moving illustrations are nothing special, but they carry the story along well, and the juxtaposition of moving and non-moving pictures is well handled.

     The other two new “AniMotion” titles have even less to offer in terms of story line, but here again, the five moving pictures per book are the primary interest. Each of these books emphasizes specific words related to the subject matter – for instance, “Zebras RUN with the herd” and “Dump trucks DROP piles of dirt.” Each emphasized word is illustrated by a moving picture – and some of the illustrations are especially clever: a lion cub pounces on its mother’s tail (only the cub and the very end of the tail are shown in motion), a baby elephant sprays water to cool itself off, a steamroller presses dirt into smooth pavement. Very young children will find these board books endlessly fascinating, although slightly older kids may be tempted to try to separate the thick “AniMotion” pages to find out why some pictures move – and still older ones will tire quickly of books whose main attraction is purely visual and that include only five moving pictures in a total of only 12 pages. Parents should consider their children’s developmental stages carefully when deciding whether to buy any of these books. They can be tremendously attractive and a lot of fun – but only for kids of the right age and interest level.

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