Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Joy of Small, by Dan Metcalf

I covet little books. I wish I could explain why, but I have no idea. The concept of producing a tiny tome with a story that fits its format perfectly is one that really appeals. 

When I came across a book of collected chapbooks then, I was in bibliophile's heaven. Chapbooks were produced cheaply on just one sheet of paper, sold for a hapenny each by travelling salesmen ('Chapmen') and would often be the only books a child would own. Back in the 1800s, these books would be filled with poems, fairy tales and puzzles, and were a child's first indoctrination into the world of literature.

My ideal book format (for all books, not just children's) is the Beatrix Potter collection, with its hard back and tiny pages. It was born out of necessity, but inspired children the world over.

Which begs the question, with child book ownership now at an all time low, is it time to return to the model of chapbooks as a way to encourage children into reading? Shorter, cheaper books which can entertain and educate, and improve child literacy through fun stories and pictures?

Efforts are made in this vein by educational publishers specialising in dyslexia friendly books such as Barrington Stoke and Ransom Publishing of course, with great success. Even thriller king James Patterson has unleashed his basement full of ghostwriters onto the scene with his experimental adult series Bookshots. But is it enough to get the world reading again?

My own foray into micro booklets is currently on kickstarter – a whole choose-your-own-adventure style book printed on a single concertina leaflet. Pick Your Path manages to fit in a world of stories into just one sheet of paper, due to some clever storytelling and text manipulation. It's my effort to get people staring at books while they wait for their bus, not their phones!

What about you? Do you covet tiny tomes? Does size matter? Let me know in the comments.


Sue Purkiss said...

Great idea, Dan! I used to like little books. There used to be some little retellings of individual fairy stories when I was a child, hard backed, with yellow covers and I think, black and white illustrations. I loved them - they must have been cheap, because we didn't have much money and didn't have many books. Have never since been able to track them down, which is a shame, because I'd love to have one. There was something special about them being small.

Ann Turnbull said...

I've always loved little books. The Beatrix Potter books, the I-Spy books that we took on journeys, and - slightly bigger - the Ladybird fairy tales that I used to buy for my children in the post office after collecting the child benefit! Last Christmas my daughter bought me The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in a tiny hardback edition, and I love it. She chose it because it was small and we were all trying to travel light - which is another advantage. And I agree, Dan - little books definitely appeal to children and are easier to hold and less daunting.

Dan Metcalf said...

Thanks for the feedback Sue and Ann!

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