The Loud Book

words by Deborah Underwood, pictures by Renata Liwska

A fun companion to The Quiet Book, The Loud Book celebrates all things NOISY.

Such a straightforward book calls for fairly straightforward type layout.

Belly Flop Loud

Thunderstorm Loud

Candy Wrapper Loud

Spilling Your Marbles In The Library Loud

And so on.

Enter: the title page.

And the copyright page.

Words spring out like sound waves; their layout amplifies the information.

Even the jacket flap gets in on this typography party:

Onomatopeia in bold and distinguished from the rest of the party.

So as a reader, you’ve seen and experienced the cover, the jacket flap, the title and copyright pages, all with nods to INCREASED VOLUME.

And now you’re ready to read.

I will even SHHH for you. Carry on.

The Serif Fairy

Rene Siegfried’s The Serif Fairy is not your traditional picture book, but I found it utterly charming. The poor little Serif Fairy has lost one of her wings and without it, she can do no magic. So she sets off through the Garamond Forest to the Zenetar Gate, from Futura City to the depths of Lake Shelley on a quest for her missing wing.


See, the Serif Fairy is made up of characters in the Shelley Andante typeface. That’s just a fancy word for font. And a serif? That’s a fancy word for this:

Those little lines at the edges of the letters are called serifs. Font designers use serifs to make letters flow from one to another. Serif fonts are used in books or other blocks of text. See: the text on the pages of The Serif Fairy. Also seen in many a wedding invitation, graduation announcement, or Marauder’s Map.

And compare those letterforms to the word above set in pink, ‘SERIFS.’  Wild-and-crazily enough, that word is actually set in a typeface called a sans-serif, because it doesn’t have those little lines. Sans-serif fonts are generally chosen for headlines or other need-to-be-especially-readable places. See: the  header at the top of this page. And my personal favorite style. Generally.

Similar to the illustrations in Bembo’s Zoo, each picture in The Serif Fairy is made up of characters from four typefaces. There are no serifs in Futura City, because Futura is a sans-serif font. Not surprisingly, that section was my favorite. Maybe because Futura is my favorite font. But also, the helicopter and the crane are AMAZING, right??

The Serif Fairy is such a wonder…uniquely crafted illustrations, combined with restrained pastel blocks of color representing land, water, and roads, and a sweet story.

Although this would be a tough read aloud, and the typography use might soar over the heads of little ones, it is a delightful must for lovers of type and design. And anyone that can say they have a favorite font.

Bembo’s Zoo

I’m way late to the party for Bembo’s Zoo, but thankfully they still have some noisemakers and punch and room for more before the fire marshall shuts ‘er down. Not only is the book itself an experience, but check it out here as well. The animations add the dynamic of visual interest, and might be your only place to enjoy Bembo’s Zoo, as it is currently out of print. I tracked down a gently used version, but saw new copies online for $235! When you hit the lottery, be sure to add this book to your library.

Designed by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, a master of typography and brilliant graphic design, Bembo’s Zoo whacks the alphabet piñata, and the result is some serious eye candy. (Groan. I know. I couldn’t resist.) {Side note: He’s also the cover designer for Little Bee, which is making the book club rounds these days. I have no idea what the book is about, but wow-is that cover pretty!}

But truly, this concept kicks the typical ABC book up a notch. deVicq de Cumptich arms himself with the classic font Bembo Roman and only using the letters in an animal’s name, recreates the animal with Bembo letterforms. And be sure to check out his self portrait on the dust jacket. The marriage of type and picture just explodes in happy bliss in this book. Adults with a keen eye may enjoy the level of sophistication a tad more than a child, but as Marla Frazee taught me, kids are experts at reading pictures, and they will surely enjoy deconstructing this puzzle.

{Seriously, I just can’t stop with the elephants. Obsessed.)


So it goes like this:

The sand crab shimmies along with his pinchers made up of Cs and Rs.

And like this:

The king of the jungle lurks in darkness, framed by his mane made of Ls.

Why did he choose Bembo and not Comic Sans? Adobe’s font store describes Bembo as “a fine text face because of its well-proportioned letterforms, functional serifs, and lack of peculiarities.” Because Bembo is so well built, his illustrations have added whimsy from the serifs, but never feel too cluttered or chaotic in their layout. He chose the best tool to tell the story, the best solution for the problem. THIS is what separates an exceptional design from a mediocre one. Similary, his limited color palette of a deep greens, oranges, black, and pale yellow represents a restraint that oozes with beautiful, and intentional, design choice.

It’s this MASSIVE design lesson wrapped in a concise picture book that makes my heart skip a beat. And celebrating a book that marries letters and pictures in such a unique way seems like a fitting way to kick off my own Picture Book Month celebration! It’s why I’m here, and what I love, and I’m glad you are joining me for the party.

Iggy Peck, Architect

Iggy Peck, Architect is my new favorite-must-be-on-top-of-the-book-pile picture book. I’m four years late to the Iggy Peck party, but better late than never, right? Maybe they saved me some leftovers. Written in lilting and whimsical rhyme by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by the quirky and grin-inducing David Roberts, Iggy Peck is now up there on my favorite character list. Ramona Quimby is at the top of that list, and I think she and Iggy would be mischievous rascally pals.

I discovered that the book designer is Chad Beckerman, the Art Director at Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books. He has an fascinating blog, Mishaps and Adventures, where he blogs about his book design process. There is a section devoted to the evolution of a book cover, where he takes you through the process from beginning to end, and it is so very interesting. I would like to have coffee with Chad Beckerman. I would ask him a million billion questions and be hopped up on the high test fuel. Or tea, and I would daintily hold out my pinky finger and try to be quieter. Maybe I would even listen to him instead of spewing out my own book design obsessions.

Maybe. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two,

When he built a great tower – in only an hour-

With nothing but diapers and glue.

On the illustration to accompany this first page? Iggy’s round and rosy booty cheeks. Always good for a chuckle, even at 33 years old. Iggy’s poor parents have no idea how to contain his artistic expressions, and allow him to play and dream and construct all of the dreamlike things he can. When Iggy hits second grade and meets his nemesis teacher, Miss Lila Greer, she stifles his love for architecture. Why? Poor Miss Greer had a slightly unfortunate experience at a tall, tall building when she was younger. {Being stuck in an elevator with a French circus troupe did nothing to comfort her from this.} But on a class field trip to Blue River Pass, a footbridge collapses, and Iggy Peck and his architecture skills are needed (and wanted) to save the day.


Element of design: CONCEPT

Concept is a big and amorphous design notion to describe. It is the look and feel, the overall direction, and the abstract point hanging out behind the main point. Concept is related to unity. In visual arts, concept is conveyed to the viewer through mood and meaning. Every graphic element throughout a piece conveys SOMETHING. That something is the concept. In Iggy Peck, Architect, every small detail of the illustration and design presents just a little more of Iggy’s love for architecture and order.

The crane lifting the word Iggy right up over the word Peck.

Architecture tools as skyscrapers on the title page. Grid lines, reminiscent of blueprints.

Typography as structure on the title page.

Even Iggy’s parents are structural and statuesque.

And though shorter, so are his classmates. Note Iggy in the background, standing on his chair. (See…BFFs with Ramona. Easily.)

A dejected Iggy, surrounded by imposing white space, after he was told to squash his architecture dreams by Miss Greer.

The texture of the creek makes it feel rigid and strong, just how Iggy likes, while retaining its watery look.

The typography collapses on the page to reflect the action of the footbridge collapsing. Smart. Clever. Fun.

Spoiler Alert. Miss Greer walking to safety on Iggy’s bridge, reimagined as one of the greatest engineered bridges rather than the sticks and stones and underpants that they really used. Perhaps this is what Iggy sees in his architecture, perhaps it is what Miss Greer sees as her valiant rescue. I like to think they both see the same.

Dear Iggy Peck, surrounded by his heroes. And quite happy about it.