If you or your children have ever enjoyed experimenting with ‘taking your pencil for a walk’ and drawn a long continuous wiggly line, then this book should please you.
The ‘string’ of the title connects a series of images that all start with a different letter of the alphabet. The line swoops, loops, curves and wraps itself around various objects, animals and birds. As they follow the string through the pages, children can name as many of these as they know. But in case they find any hard to guess, the items are all helpfully listed at the end of the book. (This list is also useful if you are used to UK English and are not familiar with phrases such as ‘gas station’.)
The creator of the book was William Wondriska (1931-2016), a graphic designer and children’s book author and illustrator. Here, in addition to the white of the page and the black of the ‘string’, he uses a wonderfully vibrant orange to illustrate the majority of the objects and this, together with the stylised images, gives the book a strong visual identity.
The page showing the moon, which appears roughly in the middle of the book, is quite different and startling. Here the colour orange is abandoned and we just see a stark white moon and stars set against a solid black background, representing night. This page is the only one where there is a break in the line. So although it is clearly a ‘long piece of string’ it is obviously not quite long enough to go to the moon and back!
Humour plays a part, too. Not only do we see the octopus tangling his eight legs among the string and the whale giving us a gentle smile, but there is also some fun word play. For instance, when we come to the page for ‘Nuts’, it shows both nuts and bolts and a walnut.
Wondriska, who studied at both the Chicago Art Institute and the Yale School of Art, founded Wondriska Associates, a design office, in 1961. Here he worked with organisations, such as the Walt Disney Company, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of Fine Arts – Boston, and won many awards.
Although created in the early 1960s, A Long Piece of String still feels very modern and fresh. It is a delightful alphabet book that also works as a ‘following’ game.
Other wordless books that feature a string, or a line, include The Red Thread (1987) by Tord Nygren, The Game of Let’s Go! (2011) by Hervé Tullet and Lines (2017) by Suzy Lee.