Press Here, by author and illustrator Hervé Tullet, is a popular book at my house. It still holds my six-year-old’s attention. Whether he is reading it, or I am, he pushes dots to change their colours, tilts the book so they fall to one side of the page and points out where the pattern gets mixed up. When Raincoast Books offered me a chance to read Tullet’s latest book, Mix It Up, and interview him, I jumped at the chance.

Tullet, who lives in France, responded to my email questions prior to the start of his October Toronto book tour for Mix It Up, which uses the same dots, but this time has you mixing colours and squishing ‘paint’ to see what happens. After reading Mix It Up in the parking lot of the my son’s school, we raced to home so he could instructed us how to Mix It Up.

Mix It Up is the latest from Herve Tullet.

1. The thought process behind creating books fascinates me. How long did it take to come with the idea of Mix It Up and how long then to create it?
Hervé Tullet: Each of my books can take all my life (time) and on the other hand, just a second.
The whole life (time) because I am always thinking about idea. Let’s say that I’m always thinking with my eyes, looking around and writing some notes, and just a second because it (the idea) could happen suddenly. The one big or a one smaller idea, out of the blue, like something magicial, almost shamanic. (Does this idea belong to me?)
Mix It Up was quite a long process because there was this huge success with Press Here and I didn’t want to copy or duplicate myself, so to arrive at the moment that my idea was real, pure, honest and true, it took three years.

2. What do you like best about Mix It Up?
Hervé Tullet: That I go further in the no style, that it is a pure idea about the magic of blue and the yellow that turn into an other colour, that I didn’t need any style, just the very simple and raw colour put on a sheet of paper with my hand.

3. What do you hope children get from the book?
Hervé Tullet: Hope, not really a hope.
There is always a blank and empty space in my book. I set up it as an installation: the game is to read together, an adult and a child, and there will be with the books reactions – laughs, a glance, a question, dialogue. I try to create a book, but you must invent your own reading or moment of life.
My hope is that you’ll enjoy the reading.

4. I know you often keep notebook and pen on you for when an inspiration strikes, but do you have a time when you are most creative?
Hervé Tullet: It’s difficult to say.
Ideas are coming out of the blue. Sometimes I note one in my black notebook, but it could happen that later on I get an idea that was already written, suggested, so it a long process.
There is also rhythm in between the time I think about an idea and the time I live with the idea, with the drawings, and then produce it in order to be sure it will succeed, to keep the idea fresh and alive into the book.

2. Of all the books you have created, which is your favourite? Why
Hervé Tullet: All of them gave me a different story / difference adventures / show me way of reading / way of creating workshops / ways to build something with children in a school or an other place.
I am Blop was, to me, very demanding book – a unique shape repeated all along the book, almost boring, and I am always still struck by the different things that happened to this shape. This shape became real to me, and to a lot of children and teachers who play with
it.
I always find a blop in the street, during my travels. Some places are particularly blop (Venice, Lisbon, St. Petersburg) and I always take pictures of them.
Editor’s Note: According to a writeup, Blop is a “simple shape, somewhere between a flower and a butterfly, a sponge and a drawing of a little man – above all Blop is whatever you want it to be.”

3. My son enjoyed the Press Here game. Of all the games and apps you have created, which is your favourite and why?
Hervé Tullet: I am very proud of the Press Here game and the Press Here apps.
It is quite difficult to me to think outside of the book. I always try to do something honest, and the apps or game could be considered more commercial.

So I am very proud because when I worked on these proposals, suggested by my publisher, I found a way to give the same feelings, qualities that are, to me, in my books – no rules and easy to find your own empty space, open to interpretation and at the level that are for the children, but talking, as usual to everybody – the adult and the child.

Editor’s Note: The Press Here game comes with various cards with different patterns and shapes on them with white circles. During your turn, you draw two circle pieces (either blue, yellow and red) from bag and place one down on the card. The other piece is placed back in the bag. On your next turn you draw two more pieces and place one down in a pattern of your choosing. You win when you fill your card with coloured dots in a pattern. The catch – you have to convince the other players your pattern is OK. There is no right or wrong way of playing this game as long as the pattern maker can convince his teammates the pattern he has created makes sense. My son loves patterning and we play this game often.

4. What was your favourite children’s book you read to your three children when they were younger?
Hervé Tullet: I read a lot and very different types of books. Some I loved, some I hated, some I hated that my children loved. I read all the Tony Ungerer and the Maurice Sendak, and some more very clever French fellows who do not translate (Philippe Corentin for example).

5. Other than your own, what is your current favourite children’s book? Why?
Hervé Tullet: Mine is forever Little Blue and Little Yellow. That book makes me understand how far you could play, elicit feelings, react, cry and so on with a simple sheet of paper.
Low material and maximum of efficiency, a very simple idea is always fascinating. When its well done, it seems naked / fragile and so strong at the same time.

6. What do you do in your downtime?
Hervé Tullet: I get a very special feeling / a kind of emergency, to finish to end to of drawing a book for example, or – worse  – to get to the very end of my ideas, to be alone, with nothing, no notes, no idea, downtime and to say ‘so now what do I do? What new stuff are you going to invent?’

Books that should be under your Christmas tree
Children’s Book of Magic
DK, http://www.DK.com
$20.99
This book unlocks the secrets of the mysterious world of magic.
The Children’s Book of Magic demystifies the mystical, explains the unexplained and is the perfect guide for all aspriring magicians.
Editor’s Note: I love DK Books. They are beautiful works of art and, in this case, the beauty starts at the front cover with a rabbit appearing in and out of a magician’s hat. Like all DK Books, there is so much information inside, but laid out in a way it’s easy to absorb. This is a great book for any kid – or adult – who dreams of being a magician.

Disney Frozen: The Essential Collection Hardcover
DK Publishing, http://www.DK.com
$14.21
Frozen: The Essential Collection takes you deep into the world of Disney’s award-winning movie. A beautiful slipcase houses an Essential Guide with all the lyrics and a sticker book. Find out about your favourite characters, explore Arendelle and delve into the key scenes of the movie. With stunning images, more than 130 full-color re-usable stickers and a sound chip that plays a clip from “Let It Go,” this is a must for every Frozen fan!

Here Comes Santa Cat
Deborah Underwood
Penguin Books, http://www.penguin.com/youngreaders
$18.99
The holidays are around the corner and Cat knows what he has to do. But being nice doesn’t come naturally. Still, with Christmas around the corner, Cat needs to find his holiday spirit.
Editor’s Note: What a cute book. It’s like you are having a conversation with Cat and he responds with actions or signs. Poor Cat. He truly tries to find ways to get onto Santa’s Good List but dead fish – a cat’s dream – and children just don’t mix.

If Kids Ruled The World
Linda Bailey
Kids Can Press
$18.95
If kids ruled the world, there would be no such thing as bedtime, you can wear anything you would like and every day would be your birthday.
Editor’s Note: I read this one to my six-year-old son, my eight-year-old niece and my almost four-year-old nephew and they were hooked. My niece suggested she would never go to bed and she loved that everyone would be a princess and prince. The illustrations are pretty fantastic. They also liked the balloon hammock. My son often requests this book at bedtime, and it’s a fun read for mom, too.

Pinterest Perfect
Walter Foster, http://www.walterfoster.com
Learn how to create beautiful ars and crafts with Pinterest Perfecct!, an elegant, interactive book full of stimple step-byu-step projects, art tips and crafting techniques.
Editor’s Note: I needed to see this book the moment the press release crossed by desk and I wasn’t disappointed. I like crafts, although I wouldn’t say I am naturally crafty. This book makes it easy to create works of art such as Lavender placemats, Glitter Vase, Tape Painting and Chalkboard Annoucement and more.

The Story Starts Here!
Caroline Merola
$17.95
Owl Kids, http://www.owlkidsbooks.com
Little Wolf wants to do things his way and that includes starting HIS story from the back of the book.
Editor’s Note: My six-year-old loved that this story started backwards and you read it the wrong way. If you tried to read it the correct way, Little Wolf stops you and tells you to read HIS story back to front.

Unnatural Selections
Wallace Edwards
Orca Book Publishers, http://www.orcabooks.com
$19.95
Illustrator Wallace Edwards invites the reader into the world of Professor I.B. Doodling, a traveling artist who visits schoolchildren and takes their suggestions in order to create hybrid animals including Toraffe, a tortoise plus a giraffe, whose “noble head is help up with pride as a balloon holds up her other side.” An index lists additional animals to spot throughout the book.
Editor’s Note: There is so much to look at at each page. In addition to the main creature, each page contains other fantasy creatures. Each page also has a rhyme about the created creature such as a Shardunk (shark plus duck plus skunk) – The Shardunk’s favourite trunks have positively shrunk.

Utterly Amazing Science
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
$10.99
It’s science, but not as you know it. Sciences fans can pop, pull, flip and spin their way through forces, light, magnetism, molecules and more. Peer into an atom, lift the lid on a volcano and make an egg parachute.
Editor’s note: I love DK books for their incredible amount of information offered in way that makes you want to read every page. My six-year-old loves science so the moment I saw this book, I knew he had to have it. And, I confess, I couldn’t help myself and poked around the book, carefully opening some flaps, before giving it to him. When talking to people on Skype, my son pulls out the book and opens it to Page 10, where the information looks like it explodes off the page. He looks up what takes up the most amount of energy in the house and reads how fast things fall from the sky. There are things to flip open, to launch and to pull. Many pages also have at-home experiments you can try to futher understand the concept presented. What a fantastic book.

Christmas
Christmas Cook It In a Cup! Meals and Treats Kids Can Cook in Silicone Cups
Julia Myall
$22.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Christmas Cook It In a Cup! brings delicious holiday spirit and six colourful silicone baking cups to kids eager to cook up holiday cheer. The cookbook serves up more than 20 recipes from breakfast to main courses to dessert.
Editor’s Note: What a fun Christmas package. My six-year-old son and I have bookmarked many recipes we plan to try including gingerbread and sugar cookies (which uses the cup as a cookie cutter) as well as biscotti, which uses the cups to cook it in. We also plan to include the cranberry sauce into our menu and I will be trying roasted Bussels sprouts. Fun book and easy to use.

Giftwrapped, Pratical and inventive ideas for all occasions and celebrations
Jane Means
QDS, http://www.quartous.com
$23.99
Jane Means is a professional giftwrapper to royality and the stars and she shares her love of beautiful packages with the reader. Learn how to wrap a bottle, a bouquet of flowers or create a variety of bows.
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful book. While I love to gift wrap, I suck at it. This book gives step-by-step instructions how to wrap and how to make the package as beautiful as what’s inside.

My True Love Gave to Me, 12 Holiday Stories
$21.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ages 13 to 18
If you love holiday stories, you’re gong to fall in love with My Tue Love Gave to Me by 12 bestselling young adult writers. Whether you celebrate Chirstmas or Hannukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone.
Editor’s Note: What a great book. There are so many great stories in the book. Each time I read one, I think “this is my favourite”, but then I read another and think “But I like this one, too.” It will make my list of books I read each year.

Other books

Bluenose Twelve Days of Christmas
Bruce Nunn
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Bluenose-Twelve-Days-of-Christmas-P6540.aspx
$17.95
On the fifth day of Christmas, My true love gave to me Five Highland flings, Four coal seams, Three lobster traps, Two fiddle tunes, And a Bluenose in at Pier Three. The Twelve Days of Christmas gets a taste of Nova Scotian revelry in this energetic retelling by storyteller Bruce Nunn.

A Maritime Christmas Treasury, a collection of holiday children’s stories from all over the Maritimes
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Maritime-Christmas-Treasury-P6685.aspx
$29.95
A collection of best-loved Maritime Christmas stories in one beautiful book for children.

Christmas Treasure Hunt
Roger Priddy
$9.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ages infant to three, board book
The baby’s Christmas Treasure Hunt book is full of festive pictures to capture a baby’s imagination.

How I Became Santa Claus
Gina Cavalier, http://www.cavalieroriginals.com
$25
How I Became Santa Claus combines a hand-drawn art and a narrative to form a unique and holiday story. Follow one little boy with a big destiny – to become the next Santa Claus.

Mary Morrison’s Cape Breton Christmas
Bette MacDonald
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Mary-Morrisons-Cape-Breton-Christmas-P6870.aspx
$24.95
Award-winning comedian Bette MacDonald entertains readers with her stories and memories of the Christmas season. More than 25 photographs are included.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer My Reader (Level 2)
Kristen L. Depken
$18.50
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ages five to seven
Rudolph is a different kind of reindeer; he has a red nose that glows. When the other reindeer laugh at him, Rudolph runs away.

The New York Times Snowed-In Sunday Crosswords, 75 Sunday Puzzles from the Page of The New York Times
$12.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Since it first ran in 1942, the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles are the standard by which all others are judged. This book features 75 classic Sunday crosswords.

The Finest Tree and Other Christmas Stories from Atlantic Canada
Nimbus Publishing, http://www.nimbus.ca/Finest-Tree-The-P6861.aspx
$16.95
Celebrate the holiday season with more than 20 tales – true and make-believe – of Atlantic Canadian Christmases, past and present.

Twas the Night Before Christmas on Sesame Street

$12.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ages three and up
It’s the night before Christmas and Cookie Monster is dozing peacefully until a minature selight and eight tiny reindeer land on Sesame Street. Cookie Monster is delighted ujntil he realizes he has already eaten all of Santa’s Cookies.

Other holidays
Beautiful Yetta’s Hannukkah Kitten
Daniel Pinkwater
$19.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ages three to seven
Witner has come and Yetta and the parrots fluff their feathers and huddle together in their warm nest on top of a streetlight. But then, one snowy night, Yetta hears a small sound. IT’s a ktten and it’s cold and hungry. Yetta wants to take care of it, but th parrots aren’t so sure. A multilingual story, it coems with Yiddish and Spanish translations and pronunciation guides.
Editor’s Note: I laughed when the chicken didn’t know what a kitten eats, but tells the grandmother that she speaks Yiddish, “naturally.”

My First Kwanzaa
Karen Katz
$7.99
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
Ages three to six
During the seven days of Kwanzaa we celebrate the importance of family, friends and community.

The Little Book Of Jewish Celebrations
Ronald Tauber
$22.95
Raincoast Books, http://www.raincoast.com
From lighting the menorah to standing under the chuppah at a wedding, every Jewish ritual reflects a time-honoured practise passed down for generations. This volumne shares the stories and traditons behind Jewish celebrations.

This column was originally published at insidetoronto.com

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