Written by Leonore Klein and illustrated by Saul Bass | Universe Publishing 2012 | Originally Young Scott Books 1962
In 1962, if you illustrated a children’s book, and was Saul Bass, you designed it as well unlike any other children’s book at the time—or today. At fifty years old, Henri’s Walk to Paris may be one of the freshest picture books you can pick up today. This is a charming story about a boy that wants to leave his little town of Reboul and walk to Paris where things are really happening. He is tricked by his own plan and learns that ‘there is no place like home.’ As they say, this book has got story—but what it really has is design with a capital D. One of the most famous and arguably—best designers in the past century—Saul Bass had a command of form and symbol in corporate trademark design and his dozens of movie posters. Logos like United Airlines, The Girl Scouts and AT&T are embedded in our public minds and are the gold standard for designers looking to distinguish a client’s identity. His movie poster illustrations were just as bold and graphic but typically rendered with cut paper giving their voice a human touch.
This book is rendered the same way with the occasional graphite line added. He employs a bright and vivid color palette, almost tropical in its use of pinks, turquoise and lime green. Perhaps the most striking facet of this book is its page layout and use of type. Saul treated each page and spread like a poster. The most minimal of detail and often only a partial figure were used to tell the story. His sense of scale and restraint are monumental—he simply leaves so much more for the viewer to complete. He starts the story and you complete it. This is missing in most books today that don’t give kids and parents the credit to imagine—nor encourage it. The typography is always positioned in a compositional way leading your eye through the book like a map. In several cases the words actually become the figure adorned with a hat and shoes. The cover is a remarkable melding of type and image and defies any marketing argument that big is better. The feet almost walk off the page! This book is on my top shelf!