When I was little I adored a book called A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz.
Unfortunately I don’t know what happened to the book but it is a book that still lives inside me to this day and I will need to track down a copy. The lovely Burgin who writes the incredible blog ‘Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves’ posted a review of A Very Young Dancer if you are interested.
The amazing thing, that is quite rare in children’s picture books, is that Jill Krementz who is the author of the book is actually a photographer and the book is illustrated in photo’s. The story, a true one, is of a young girl’s journey in the New York City Ballet company and starring in their Christmas production of the Nutcracker. Using the photo’s to tell the story was so inclusive for me as a child. I wanted to be the ‘Young Dancer’ and I gained so much from observing the reality in the photography – the amazement and wonder of a city that I had never seen and the grittyness of the backstage and training process of a professional ballet company.
So when I saw Kiki & Coco in Paris, a picture book that is also illustrated with photography, I was again instantly transported and I knew I had to have it. It is a little different to A Very Young Dancer as Kiki and Coco in Paris is for much younger children and the photography staged for the story line but it still has those amazing inclusive qualities that photography brings to a book.
Published as a really beautiful extra large format hardcover book how could you even resist the jacket image….
Coco is a doll made by Jess Brown and her owner is a divine little girl called Kiki.
‘When Kiki holds Coco’s hand, Coco’s feet skim the floor like a ballerina. It’s as if they were made for each other.’
They are packing to go to a city called Paris and the story that follows is a really lovely soft, gentle tale about the trip to France illustrated with the most amazing photography of their adventures.
The colours and the clarity in the photography is incredible – Kiki’s vibrant and trendy outfits (notice her little Saltwater sandals), Coco’s stunning gold dress and the backdrops of the amazing Parisian scenery are all so crystal clear, it is like you could touch them. And the end papers are striking. As you open the book you are hit with the most beautiful sunny yellow and white stripes – everything about this book makes me happy.
The story is quite a traditional one, that has the essence of many classics. Coco is Kiki’s friend and goes with her everywhere until she is left behind at a Parisian cafe and is found by a dog, who carry’s her around for a little while until she is reunited with Kiki. The difference is with this book is that the story is actually better as a gentle flow in the background and mainly used as a prompt to interpret what the photography portrays.
‘A famous tower with stairs that seem to go on forever.
At the top. Kiki is quiet as she gazes out. Coco looks up at the clouds as tiny drops start to fall.’
For me this is one of the best examples of modern picture book publishing, especially in the age of the iPad and apps. There is so much that is classic about this book but yet it also very 2012. Our love for the handmade and artisan is given a nod in the stunning doll by Jess Brown and the movement and life that Stephanie Rausser has captured in her photographs satisfies some of the ‘screen’ obsession we all have. (In saying that there is actually also an iPad and iPhone version of the book available on iTunes.)
There is also our love for travel, encompassed in a city that is close to many of our hearts. Kiki likes to explore and has a passion to experience different things in Paris, a trait that I would love to instil in my own children. It would have been easy for this book to seem a bit pretentious and contrived but it is in fact the opposite. Kiki & Coco in Paris is a warm and lovely picture book that I will remain ever fond of just like A Very Young Dancer.