Paul Rand

Chronicle Books, 3 years +, Vintage Books

Sparkle and Spin: A book about words

Words by Ann Rand

Illustrated by Paul Rand

Published by Chronicle Books 1957

"Some words are gay and bright and full of light like tinsel and silver and sparkle and spin." 

Words are the focus in Sparkle and Spin (well clearly, its 'a book about words'). It is clear that Ann Rand had a love for words, the sounds, the meanings, and the feelings they leave with you. She playfully explains the different ways to use words including the length of words, the volume used to speak them, and that some words sound the same but have different meanings such as 'hair' and 'hare'. The concept of onomatopoeia is explained well by using the words 'toot toot' and 'whee' with a striking depiction of a train travelling over a bridge.

The elegance of both the spoken and written word is conveyed through Ann's text and supported by her husband Paul's bold imagery. Paul Rand was an amazing talent in graphic design, at the forefront of the design wave of the 1950's and 60's.  

The illustrations combine hand sketches, bold swathes of colour, stencilled lettering and collage. Most of the book spreads could be used as standalone works of art. The front cover is the most striking with a black background, bright text and a hand spinning a top on its finger. The words and imagery have been coated with a glitter paint that creates a sophisticated and luxurious texture to the book jacket. 

Sparkle and Spin was written and illustrated in 1957 using phrases of the time, some of which are now considered to be of a bygone era. If I am honest, the words and rhythm of the text are at times a little clunky and almost clumsy. I am also not sure that some of the lines rhyme as well as they could. Perhaps this was intentional. 

I think that the reader will forgive this old fashioned and disjointed tempo because of the clear joy and love crammed into the short text. This book was clearly created for no other reason than to invigorate a childs love for language.

Reviewed by Tom White