Just as cute dogs are chick bait when you walk 'em in Battery Park City, and my friend Juliet is a magnet for smelly old drunks, some picture books attract hipster parents like flannel attracts lint. Kevin "Squidfire" Sherry's books. Laura Ljungkvist's. William Bee (guy has a book called Whatever, for Pete's sake - if that's not playing to the post-modern parent I don't know what is). The geometric world of Bob Staake. French illustrator Marc Boutavant, whose book Boule de poils et mon canard translates to "Hairball and my duck," and so I must have it.
And don't think that these artists don't know it. There is, as one Facebook commenter put it recently, "A built-in grandparent market" for cool design. (I would call it a built-in godparent / auntie market, but then I am not ready to accept that, at 45, I am in fact old enough to be a grandparent.) So sometimes one gets the feeling that the kid content of these books goes somewhat overlooked in the process of making an extra-groovy high-design kid book. The books of Ann and Paul Rand, for example, are/were too conceptual for most kids, but web-designer uncles just keep snapping them up for their nieces and nephews.
Letters, numbers, colors, and shapes seem to be particularly tempting topics for modern illustrators and designers. Marion Bataille did that stunning ABC pop-up. There's Bruno Munari's ABC. Charley Harper's illustrations have been repurposed into ABC and 123 books. Counting with Wayne Thiebaud. The Shapes of Wayne White. No no, I made that last one up.
The matte white and inky black backgrounds of Shapes That Roll contrast luxuriously with the shiny varnished bright shapes in the foreground, to make a book that is visual and tactile candy for design-minded moms and dads. That varnish is slick and kind of sticky. Oh yeah. But you know what that varnish is really doing? Much as in The Black Book of Colors, the varnish gives the geometric shapes that are being defined in the book a tiny measure of volume, an additional method of communicating to a child what we mean when we say the word "oval."
The rhyming text is swingy and fun to read aloud, with a nice beefy typeface showing you where to put the emphasis in case you weren't going to be able to figure it out yourself. I think if I had one complaint, it would be that this book is too physically small to comfortably share with a big group of kids. It's storytime-worthy.