Twenty-five years ago, twins Kyle and Derek Sullivan grew up in Hazel Dell, a small unincorporated town just north of Vancouver, Washington.
While most of the town’s woodlands have given way to places like Dollar Tree, Walmart and housing complexes, you can still glimpse creeks and even a few fields — the kinds magical of places that give rise to youngsters’ unbridled imaginations.
The Sullivan’s have been collaborating on children’s books featuring monsters, ogres and other critters, each fancifully grotesque but, in their own ways, lovable, for the past five years.
Most of the growing list of titles under the Sullivan’s Hazy Dell imprint are board books, but their latest offerings are board books with a twist, flaps.
“Bigfoot Baby!” and “Alien Baby!” are formatted to feature a question on the left page, with the rhyming answer revealed under the flap on the opposing page.
For example, in the opening spread of “Alien Baby!” the question posed is: “Who’s zipping past in a flash of light?”
Pull down the flap, which shows a purple comet streaking through space, and you’ll find the answer: “It’s Alien Baby taking flight!”
The illustration reveals a bug-eyed Alien Baby cheerfully helming a flying saucer.
Alien Baby proceeds to have adventures with other creatures in space, including a space baboon and a lizard man. These are colorful, laidback characters which are likely to stimulate a tot’s curiosity rather than terror.
The “Bigfoot Baby!” book features a Sasquatch-like toddler roaming the forest and encountering fanciful flora, fairies, gnomes and wildlife.
Both books are written by Elias Barks (a pseudonym) and illustrated by Portland artist Meg Hunt, who uses a blue-purple palette with orange accents to convey deep space in “Alien Baby” and a broader range of colors, from sunny yellows and greens to soothing blues, to depict Bigfoot Baby’s forest home at different times of day.
“Alien Baby!” models good sharing skills. And both books incorporate rhymes, interesting vocabulary and enough detail in the drawings to provide counting opportunities (How many toes does Bigfoot Baby have? How many eyes does the space baboon have?) and conversational grist throughout.
The final page of each of these books shows the young protagonist tucked in for a good night’s sleep with its adoring parents looking on.
On top of everything else, the engineering of these flap books is commendable. The flaps variously open up like a mailbox, or to the side like a door, great for developing fine motor skills. And Hazy Dell obviously considered its core audience, teething tots, in ensuring that these flap books are ultra-sturdy.
These would be great fun to share with the proto-readers in your life.