Written and illustrated by Taro Miura
Chronicle Books; $15.95
52 pp.; ISBN 978-0811855198
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Introducing young children to the tools of many trades, Japanese illustrator and graphic designer Taro Miura offers readers a beginner's insight into grown-up trades and professions at a very basic level that's easily accessible to kids. With a keen eye for visual appeal and clever arrangement of art and text, Miura's Tools is more than just a catalog of random tools, it's a beginning education for kids about the working world around them.
Miura's stylized illustrations call to mind the art deco poster art of the 1930s. The lines are very clean and smooth, with featureless faces that focus the reader's attention on the action being performed by the tradesman or professional, rather than the individual himself.
Miura leaves no aspect of the art to chance -- every element plays into the theme of his book and supports the tools being shown on the page. Each two-page spread features the common tools of a particular trade or profession: for example, pins and a pincushion, thread, measuring tape, chalk, and scissors, and the page is turned to reveal who uses those items: a tailor.
Tools, from soldering iron to pinking shears, from stethoscope to adjustable wrench, are simply depicted on an uncluttered page with a complementary, textured background (i.e., the page with the barber's tools is set against a pale tan background with small brown lines scattered through it, reminiscent of cut hair). Each individual tool is labeled in a distinctive font. The next page reveals the trade/profession in focus, with a simple naming in that same font and depiction of the practitioner. The illustration includes the professional using one or two of the tools in question as well.
The text of Tools is sparse yet suitable and well-matched to the artwork, letting the reader and child set the tone and depth of the reading, from a simple naming of the various tools to a deeper conversation of how a clamp works and what it might be used for. The easily-adaptable structure of book allows for parent to tailor reading to skill level and interest of child. Readers can point out and discuss the featured tools and then talk about the profession, while more sophisticated readers can guess the job from the tools before turning the page.
Tools is an excellent picture book for prompting discussion with young children about people's jobs, the tools they use, how they use them, and why, whether they're making things, fixing things, or doing things with them. Sure to appeal to curious readers eager to know the how and why of everything, Tools can jumpstart some serious hands-on fun, if you're brave enough to show your kid the real hammer that looks just like the one in the book (if you've got a safe place to let her swing it around…).
Miura, who also wrote and illustrated the book Ton, has had work accepted for the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition several times, and won several awards for his illustrations.
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