From the very beginning, I did not know what to expect from this book, and each page left me anticipating the next. This book has no plot, no characters, no setting, pretty much no conventional book parts…but the directions must be followed and the pages turned to satisfy curiosity!
Hervé Tullet is a French artist and the father of three children…and he appears to know his stuff! Called the “Prince of pre-school books” in France, he published his first children’s book in 1994. Meandering about his website (which can be viewed in English, although the text in the images is still in French, and the translation appears to be computer-generated), you can find photographs of him doing workshops with small children and interacting with them in much the way you would expect a favorite uncle to do. I imagine it is this part of him that enables him to create such unique and engaging works for children.
Press Here features an assortment of bold, painted dots in primary colors on backgrounds that are white and/or painted black. The reader is instructed (through brief sentences at the bottom of the right-hand page) to do something relating to the image. For instance, one of the first pictures is simply a yellow dot, about an inch in diameter, in the center of the right-hand page, and the text (translated from the original French) says “PRESS HERE AND TURN THE PAGE.” (The text is possibly hand printed and is in distinctive uppercase writing with only the letter “i” being done in lowercase.) Turning the page reveals the supposed result of following the instruction; in this case, a second yellow dot appears to the left of the first. Instructions throughout the book include pressing, rubbing, tapping, shaking, tilting, blowing, standing, and clapping, often with an adverb to modify the verb. Readers also have to identify right and left and a deviation from a pattern. As for the dots, they multiply, move, grow, and overlap (causing some secondary colors to emerge) in a “response” that seems to follow logically from the action the reader is supposed to perform.
GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild was mesmerized by this book! She followed the directions fastidiously (I had to help define “press” for her so she’d take her finger off the page so I could turn it!) and at the end–where it says “Want to do it all over again?”–she was ready to start over, and she asked for it again as soon she she got up from her nap and saw it on my desk. When I wasn’t available to read it to her, she sat with it and tried to do all the actions herself by what she remembered from the pictures and reading it before, and she was ready to read it again by bedtime. Very obviously, this book was intriguing to her (and to me!), and the way that it drew her in and invited interaction reminded me of a printed cross between a smart phone app and a sophisticated touch-and-feel book! I would highly recommend this book for a one-on-one reading session with a preschool or early elementary aged child.