Two new entries (both August) in Little Simon’s A Classic Board Book series, which repackages well-known picture books as board books, are on opposite ends of the adaptation spectrum.
Emily Gravett’s Orange Pear Apple Bear makes by far the more natural translation. Gravett’s spare text, ample white space, humor, and eye-pleasing illustrations in a soft palette transfer perfectly into the new format. Yes, it’s half the size of the original, but without any crowding, color problems, or content changes; everything is sized down to fit the smaller trim. It works so well one might think the story was first conceived as a board book.
The decision to publish Judi and Ron Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as a board book, however, is bizarre. The lengthy original text—intended for elementary-aged kids—is unabridged, so adults will need a magnifying glass just to read the print. The colors in Ron Barrett’s illustrations are garishly brighter, and his detailed hatch work gets squished when condensed, looking like TV static.
Why, then, re-release Cloudy as a board book for toddlers?
If Little Simon’s series, self-described as “Classic Books for Little Hands,” was really intended for small children, then Cloudy would never have made the cut. Is Little Simon trying to cater to that present-buying audience who want to get classic books in children’s hands as soon as they’re born…even if they’re not age appropriate?
Are they hoping to attract parents who want smaller, sturdier, and cheaper versions of hardcover picture books? A paperback edition would work better; it’s lighter and, while less durable, similar in cost to the board book and in size to the original.
The board book could very well end up the last great hold-out in the e-book revolution, since parents probably won’t want toddlers chewing on their iPads and iPhones. These books provide publishers with a format to produce physical books that people will buy. But well-conceived original board books, which are suited to a toddler’s developmental needs and attention span, are untested. An adaptation of a known (i.e., saleable) quantity is a safer and hopefully more profitable bet.
The real question is whether consumers should buy them or not. What do you think?
For more on successful board books, see Betty Carter and Viki Ash’s “What Makes a Good Baby Shower Book?” from the May/June 2011 Horn Book Magazine.