Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?

By Susan A. Shea, illustrated by Tom Slaughter

Do you know which ones will grow? Think, then answer Yes or No.

After this initial challenge, the book takes off into a rapid fire series of questions. Each spread contains a couplet, posing the ‘what if?’ Obviously, some things grow, some do not. Simple enough. But the real fun of the book is in the outlandish and quirky potentials for things that grow. Can a washcloth grow to become a towel? A sweater to a coat? Because if a calf grows to become a cow, can’t a shovel grow to become a plow? This is a fun and fast paced read. Oh, and on top of that? Flaps to lift. Curiosity piqued, predictions to make…so cleverly designed.

Before you even get to the real romp of the story, the cover, inside cover, and page-with-the-cataloging-for-librarians-information has already hollered loudly. Tom Slaughter’s bold, graphic, perfectly placed images are so engaging. I didn’t know much about Tom Slaughter, {and by much I mean nearly nothing}, and a perusal through his portfolio revealed that this is absolutely his signature style. I love the imperfections of the oblong shapes paired with a deeply saturated color palette. I love that the things that grow and what they might become are highlighted in a different color text than the rest. I love the flaps. I love the whitespace balance of one page juxtaposed with the patterned and colorful composition just across the gutter. I love that Tom Slaughter shares my affection for scooters. And stripes.

But what I really love the most is his attention to texture.

Texture

All surfaces have a texture. It generally refers to the tactile qualities to a surface, and so it is much easier to understand in a physical sense. So how does texture translate to a visual world? Think about touching a brick wall. Now think about touching a picture of that same brick wall. Obviously one will feel rough and raggedy, and one will feel slick and glossy. Texture in a 2D world is all an illusion, and is used to create depth, detail, and interest in compositions.

Designers often use textures pulled from real life tactile environments, such as wood, cement, stone, rust, paint. {Just don’t make me say the G.R.U.N.G.E. word. And please don’t make me make you a brushed metal treatment with a J.J. Abrams lens flare either. Please.}

OR, texture can be as simple (yet bold) as layered, abstract blocks of color and shape. This is what Tom Slaughter does so effectively here, with his brightly colored illustrations and contrasting patterns. There’s also a cut-out paper feel that makes you fully expect to find raised areas on this flat, smooth paper. By layering color and varying white balance on corresponding spreads, he achieves a rich and dynamic texture to his illustrations. Designing with texture in mind is perfect for an already tactile lift-the-flap reading experience.

The striped shirt just kills me. I’m sure there’s an ice cream stain on there somewhere where I can’t quite see.

Big, bold, black box for text + a literal dotted line that feels animated + active white space + a momma and her baby kangaroo at a dynamic crash point? Yeah. Yummy.

YES to Susan A. Shea and Tom Slaughter’s beautiful book, and YES to texture.

{NO to boring design in picture books.}

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