For the little people

Monkey toy Inside the rainbow Russian childrens book illustrations

Shelf Appeal normally likes an oldish book or booklet. A bit of rust around the staples and a bit of foxing across the paper. But this week Shelf Appeal has got excited over a new thing.

There have been quite a few posts here about Russian children’s book illustration. Yet aside from online sites of interest, the books about such things have mostly been in other languages than English. The Japanese like these illustrations very much. But a handsome new tome in English has appeared, full of juicy examples of the genre. And the text, rather than situating the illustrations in a dryish narrative allows contemporary words to set the scene. It is really interesting, reading quotes and excerpts from the same period as the illustration.

And if you never get past the pictures, it’s no shame. They are (no lie) fabulous. I tried to think what it is that makes me so glad to see these illustrations. The limited colour palette, for sure. The emphasis on silhouette, shapes and block colour. The Soviet-arbitrated subject matter ranging from transport and toys to uniforms, from building, to life as a good little citizen.

These books embody the idea of learning through play. They are playful. They have less than subtle messages. In fact they are nothing less than manifestos for the children.

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