Dick Bruna

0 - 2 years, Vintage Books, Tate

The Apple

Words & Illustration by Dick Bruna

Published by Tate Publishing to honour the 60th anniversary.

I love this book, I have always loved this book. I had a copy of it when I was very young and I have remembered the striking forms such as the Rooster and the bowl of grapes for what is now decades. The yellow rooster is probably the earliest hero that I discovered when I began reading.

'The Apple' is Dick Bruna's first children's book and was created before he created his most iconic Miffy character. It is a beautiful and simple story of friendship. A red apple is taken on an adventure by a yellow rooster and it demonstrates how with the help of a friend you can have new adventures and experience the world from a different perspective.  

Bruna wrote and illustrated 'The Apple' in 1953 while he was working as a freelance graphic designer in Amsterdam. The dozen illustrations in 'The Apple' are distinct and easily recognisable as the work of Bruna with his use of bold black lines and minimal colours. It is likely that Bruna was influenced by artists such as his countrymen Rietveld & Mondrian and the Dutch graphic design movement, De Stijl.

Bruna's simple bold style is a design standard for graphic designers today, but was considered by many adults to be too simple in the 1950s when this book was first written. Bruna himself comments:

“I remember when I had finished The Apple, I had no idea if it would appeal to children, so I took some copies along to a local book fair. All the parents who came past my stand dismissed my book saying it was too simple, but their children pointed at my pictures and said “But that’s how I draw! And that colour green is just like my green!” So I thought maybe I was right, and I should carry on with this approach.”

When Tate Publishing republished this book in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary, the Official Online Press Office for Miffy issued a press release. It was really interesting to find out that Bruna originally published this book in a rectangular format. The format was changed to the smaller square format (still used today), to make reading easier for the small hands of his readers. 

Reviewed by Tom White