A partnership between the children’s books and the arts was always going to be a fascinating one. So, when the Victoria & Albert Museum and Penguin Random House Children UK and Thames & Hudson announced that they were going to work together to create a number of children’s book titles, I couldn’t wait to see what they created. And it was certainly worth the wait, as the first two titles I’ve been sent have lived up to the hype.
Fashion Mash-Up, illustrated by Daisy de Villeneuve
This is a glorious combination of tradition press-out dolls and costumes, a history of fashion (split into articles of clothing such as shirts and trousers) and styling tips. Alongside Daisy’s lovely illustrations are photographs from the V&As own collections – gorgeous pieces of clothing and shoes that any fashion lover will drool over.
At first glance, the book might appear as though it appeals to younger audiences through its bright drawings but everyone in my house was fascinated by it – from Holly (teen) to her Nana. As well as the pop-out dolls (and the pop-out photos of real fashion pieces from the V&A to dress them in – with details of the designer, date and V&A catalogue number), readers are encouraged to sketch their own ideas for items of clothing, using inspiration from pattern swatches and examples of designers’ own creations. I could see anyone with an interest in fashion getting a lot out of this book and even am tempted to have a go myself (even though I can’t draw to save my life!).
The fashion history angle not only explores how things like trousers developed over the years (from miniature breeches to velour tracksuits) but also how and why they became popular (women started wearing trousers much more during World War II because of the various jobs they had to do in the absence of men). This can show even the most disparaging critic of fashion that it can play an important role in how society changes and adapts to the times.
The book is sturdy enough to withstand the many uses it will get and there’s a helpful holder on the inner back cover for budding designers to store their pop-out dolls and clothes. This will keep fashionistas occupied for many hours and would make a lovely present. I am keeping my copy hidden from view so I don’t have to share!
The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Liz Catchpole
The song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is eponymous with Christmas and with cards, posters and books to talk children through each of the numbers. However, the new hardback title from Penguin and the V&A adds something a little different and stands out from the crowd with its luxurious and beautiful appearance.
The foreword to this book reveals that ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ first appeared as a song in the late eighteenth century and that this current incarnation was inspired by the V&A’s William Morris collection. Illustrator Liz Catchpole chose patterns by Morris from the museum’s archive and blended these with her own artwork of birds and leaves. The two are a wonderful match, and the colours are stunning. The book is as suited to a coffee table as to a children’s library but deserves to be read and admired. I’ll be taking this into my school library to sing with the children, who I know will appreciated the marvellous drawings. I won’t be leaving it in there though, as it’s a title I will want to keep at home to return to. A perfect present for art and design fans, no matter what the age.