Skip to main content

Under the Hood, written and illustrated by Christophe Merlin

Under the Hood

I knew just from the cover that I would love Under the Hood by French illustrator Christophe Merlin. A lift the flap book about featuring animal mechanics with Tibor Gergly-esque retro illustrations sounds like a recipe for success to me! What I didn't expect was the fabulous paper engineering and the droll sense of humor Mr Merlin brings to this book. With its thick, creamy pages I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a little one as young as three.
Under the Hood
Although only six two-page spreads make up Under the Hood, there is a lot going on in this charming book. Mr Bear, who fortunately owns a garage, needs to fix his car with the help (or not) of his friends Crocodile and Mouse. Each flap opens to reveal another flap to be lifted, and sometimes another after that! When Mr Bear opens the doors to his garage, we see a tarp covering a car. Lifting the flap that is the tarp reveals a car with a passenger door that is also a flap. In the spread above, lifting the flap of the trunk reveals the tail of Crocodile while lifting the tail of Crocodile reveals the source of the mysterious Brmm sound that Mr Bear hears before starting the car.

My favorite spread, which I could not find a way to scan, shows Mr Bear and Crocodile, tools in hand, about to take a look at Mr Bear's car. The hood, door and trunk are all flaps. The double page spread flips up to reveal the car up on the lift and dripping oil into Crocodile's snout. There is even a flap on this page showing the underside of the engine. When opened, a pair of red underwear can be seen amongst the gears. Another great spread shows us just what is inside Mr Bear's toolbox...

There is even a sliding piece that moves a car ahead in a drag race. The final page of Under the Hood shows a sturdy red tow truck driven by Crocodile. Opening the final gatefold in the book reveals Mr Bear in his car as he is being towed back to the garage, happily munching his lunch. I don't think I've ever seen a lift-the-flap book that brings such style and creativity to the genre. And, as a children's bookseller and the mother of two boys, I can tell you that the "Things That Go" section of the bookstore is dominated by trains and trucks and there is always more room for a book about cars, especially when there are tools and tow trucks involved!


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…