“What can you do with a word?” asks Christoph Niemann in his introduction to his forthcoming illustrated children’s book, Words.
Made as a celebration of both language and art, the book aims to help young readers discover 300 key words in context. “I am inviting kids (and readers of all ages) to intuit and puzzle out meaning,” writes the illustrator and author, “and to see language as a source of ideas and stories”.
What’s notable about Niemann’s approach to the more typical A-Z word book is that he has broadened out the usual list of drawn words – apple, boat, cat etc – to include adjectives, verbs and conjunctions, often pairing two things together over a spread so that readers can see the subtle differences (or connections) between them.
“Illustrating non-nouns (as well as the obvious verbs and adjectives) was what really drew my to this idea – ‘if’, ‘or’, ‘when’, ‘too’, ‘again’ are more tricky, but much more interesting!” Niemann told CR.
“The selection is loosely based on the [Dr Edward B] Fry list of the most common words, and I felt it was high time that all these small words finally get the recognition that their ubiquity commands.”
“For me drawing and writing are very closely related,” Niemann writes on the page on his site about the book. “Both a word and a picture have the power to express extremely complex thoughts and emotions with amazing simplicity.
“Think of the word ‘love’, or a drawing of a smiling face. Being able to understand words and images opens the door to knowledge, communication, and connection to people all over the world.”