The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City houses incredible exhibits for lovers of design, including fantastic workshops for kids to help them gain an appreciation for fine design before they even hit kindergarten. And Ah Ha to Zig Zag, the new alphabet book by Maira Kalman, one of our favorite illustrators, celebrates pieces from this collection. Who knows, maybe your children will even be inspired to start their own museum one day.
This isn’t your typical “A is for Apple” book. In fact, in Ah Ha to Zig Zag, A is for cAp . . . and every other A that appears on that page. I love that this allows the artist to choose items she really loves, not just ones that are forced into fitting with each letter of the alphabet. The book reads as if you’re having a conversation with Kalman about the displays at the Cooper Hewitt, which is so much more interesting than flipping from igloos to jelly beans to kites to lions.
My son and I both chuckled when we got to the last letter of the alphabet—O, for “Oops, we left out O.”—but he loved seeing that design is about the process of trying and sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. And an index of objects is included, so kids (and their parents) can see each of the objects illustrated in the book and learn its origin.
My favorite part of the book is on the last page—a note encouraging your kid to recognize that everything around them, even their Number 2 pencil, is designed, and to think about what they’d put in their own museum. They’re encouraged to write to Mrs. Plum at the Cooper Hewitt and tell her their ideas, and it even gives her physical address. My son has his letter ready to send. His collection of choice? Potions.
You can purchase Ah Ha to Zig Zag by Maira Kalman at your local bookstore or at our affiliate Amazon. And if your kids love it as much as mine did, you can get them a 300-piece puzzle of Maira Kalman’s art too.