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Book Review: Tickle Tut’s Toes (Touch the Art Series) by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo

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When Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo set out to capture the wonder of art in an interactive, "touch-and-feel" format for the youngest of art connoisseurs they started with well-known artists. Brush Mona Lisa’s Hair and Make Van Gogh’s Bed were amongst their earlier offerings, along with Catch Picasso’s Rooster, released this Fall. Including both household name artists and major schools of art, these offerings opened a world of interactive art to children.

With the release of Tickle Tut’s Toes the Touch the Art Series departs for previously unexplored waters – the largely three-dimensional, structural art of ancient Egypt. Pairing simple rhyming couplets with sensory elements and photographic reproductions of Egyptian art, children can stroke the sail of a painted wooden model boat, rub the scratchy burlap-like texture of the cloth wrapped around a mummified crocodile, or finger roughly woven linen that trails from a mummy’s wrappings. Very neat.

The objects-de-art are placed against colorful, bold, rough-collage backgrounds reminiscent of Eric Carle’s work. The contrast of modern with ancient makes the historical artifacts pop from the page. Though presented in a board-book, these titles are recommended for ages 4 – 8, as some of the touchy features are more fragile than those typically found in similar-style books for babies. Small plastic "gems," loosely woven linen wrappings that can unravel if treated roughly, and other elements, take these titles out of the realm of toddlers and into that of early elementary.

An appendix of sorts features thumbnails of the artifacts, approximate dates, details of their current homes, historical background, and construction notes. The adults who’ll be introducing these books to their children should most certainly read these fascinating details. That way, as they flip through the pages, and their little ones inevitably ask questions, they’ll be able to enter into a natural conversation wherein they can share these educational tidbits. My six-year-old was actually open to my reading some of these details when a particular piece of art interested her keenly as we read through the book, but she wasn’t open to reading straight through this section.

Tickle Tut’s Toes hits all of the high-interest, fascinating subjects of the well-known aspects of Egyptian culture. King Tut, a tomb painting, mummies, a tiny sphinx, a sarcophagus, and the pyramids are complemented by some lesser-known subjects such as glasswork and a miniature replica of daily life created for inclusion in a coffin. While some of these items can be considered "art" only loosely, they certainly form a fascinating jumping-off point for a further-study of ancient Egypt, and can add depth and visual references for studies that are already underway.

Featuring nine items in total, Tickle Tut’s Toes allows parents and educators to quickly pull together an informal introduction to Egyptian artifacts without requiring planning or resource scrounging, while meeting children at their level – the world of the kinesthetic.

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