Origins of the interactive book

Digital formats provide a wealth of opportunity to experiment with, and push the boundaries of, the traditional book. With much focus on what this can do to engage children in reading, here Jana Sukenikova takes a look at the origins of the interactive children’s book and why she used monsters as the topic of her most recent design project.

Monsters became very popular in this century, from Vampires to Werewolves to Dragons, Skeletons and many, many different kinds. When I was conducting research for my recent project, I was disappointed by the selection of books on the topic of monsters in the town library. Badly chosen fonts were fighting with weak and inappropriate illustrations, with everything looking ‘glued’ together rather than being well-designed. I passionately wanted to change this situation – by making a special monster book!

Book of Spooks and Jelly Monster

Book of Spooks and Jelly Monster

How monsters were born

This project was born from a coincidence when I was babysitting my little cousin. While we were draw­ing together I asked her “How do you imagine Monsters?“ I realised that her imagination of monsters is completely different to mine when I was her age. So I decided to put together a book, which will show adults and all children a completely new approach to a world of spooks.

I asked children in the local nursery school for help and the results were awesome! They produced around 100 illustrations to get started with and a third of these were bedsheet ghosts.

Skeleton by Simeon Vartik, and my illustration

Skeleton by Simeon Vartik, and my illustration

Make a toy from your book

Backgrounds, monsters and stories become a living, breathing thing by adding interactive elements. Interactive elements are the inspiration be­hind many of the books I found while researching. My Book is filled with pop-up monsters, stickers, monsters based on dress-up dolls, foils, mechanical parts, embossed illustrations, monsters base on coloring books etc.

POP-UP elements

Two dimensional objects are changed to 3D objects by folding paper mechanisms. These plastic models were used for the first time in the mid-19th century, when London publishing companies Dean & Son and Darton & Co added 3D parts into well known 2D scenes. Success came almost immediately. Pioneer of the best Pop Up books was the German illustrator and writer Lothar Meggendörfer (1847–1925) Some of his most famous books include Dolls House and Grand Cirque International.

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Lothar Meggendörfer: Doll ?s House

Pop-Up HydraDragon from Books of Spooks

Pop-Up HydraDragon from Books of Spooks

Pieces of cardboard with interchangeable fashion costumes were popular in the rich classes for both men and women in Europe and America in the late 18th century.

The first manufactured paper doll was Little Fanny, produced by S & J Fuller in London 1810. Before Barbie doll was introduced to the world, paper dolls had a significant role in the lives of children.

Tom Tierney’s Paper Dolls

Depressive Monster from Book of Spooks

Moving Parts

In mid-1700 in France “Pantins” dolls were developed to rise against french upper class and royal courts. „Jumping Jacks“ figures were something between a marionette and Paper Doll and they were made to taunt society. Jack developed into a paper element in the books for children, where the base is an illustration and the body parts and head are movable with the help of rivets.

Vintage Jumping Jack

Vintage Jumping Jack

Hugging Monster from Book of Spooks

Hugging Monster from Book of Spooks

There are many ways to make a book more attractive and engaging for children or adults (both in print and digital). Just go to the library and have a look, you will find plenty of inspiration for your next print or digital project.

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fanah shapeless janaJana Sukenikova aka Fanah Shapeless is a multi-disciplined graphic designer specialising in Book Design, Layout, Brand identity, Print and Digital Design, Boardgames, Illustrations. Check out more of her work here.

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