Innovations: Dressing up

Is it a book? Is it a game? It's both, say the creators.

innov dressing up 88 298 (photo credit: Meredith Price)
innov dressing up 88 298
(photo credit: Meredith Price)
Anyone with a little girl has probably been through it. The agonizing search for the perfect dress that usually ends up being the one that just got thrown into the dirty laundry bin or needs mending. For Adi Schechter, it was her niece's endless quest for the ideal outfit that inspired the text of an innovative game/book combination for children. "I wrote the text for this book as a present for my niece 17 years ago when she was three," explains Schechter. "She used to say, 'I want a different dress' all the time, and it inspired me to make a book with different dresses that she could play with and read. I always wanted to do something more with the text, but it took a long time to figure out how to make it stand out among the masses of children's books published these days." Classified as a book by its creators, this unusual combination of verse and images combines a magnetic game with rhyming text. "It is a story in rhymes, which is part of what makes up a traditional book, but it doesn't have the cover or pages of a regular book," explains Schechter, who works as an editor of translations and teaches at Beit Berl College in Kfar Saba. "I wanted to write a story, but I didn't want to put it in the traditional format of a book. I wanted to change the physical requirements of a book -sitting or lying down and flipping through the pages - to change the way a child experiences the text and to give her more flexibility with her reading." To do this, Schechter teamed up with artist and friend, Hila Shaltieli, to design a poster with the written text and the 14 dresses, as well as a separate set of magnets, which include the same 14 dresses and an unclothed little girl searching for the right dress to wear. Shaltieli, who grew up with Schechter on Kibbutz Malkiya near the Lebanese border, teaches art and design students at the Minshar School of Tel Aviv. "Adi came to me for help with the visual, graphic side of the book, and together we came up with the concept of fusing magnets with text," she says. "We needed something that would stand out, and this was it." Bright orange and pink flowers decorate the red cardboard box that contains both the poster and the magnets. In its center, the white title Ani Rotza Simla Aheret (I Want a Different Dress) gives a small clue about the story's plot. The speaker in the story is actually "I," which entices children to put themselves into the action and imagine that they are the ones looking for a different dress. Each of the dresses has a different reason for not being right. Either it's too large, reserved for birthdays, only for the house, too strapless, too flowery or a myriad of other perfectly good reasons that make it unacceptable to wear. According to Schechter and Shaltieli, there are two major ways to read the text. One involves putting the poster up on a magnetic background, usually the refrigerator, and then allowing the children to stick the magnets on top of the dresses in the poster as they read. For children who are too young to read, the doll magnet can be dressed and undressed with the 14 dresses too. "We've also heard about sisters in different rooms playing together by having one read the text on the poster while the other dresses the doll with the magnet dresses," says Shaltieli. "It's very versatile and can be used in a lot of different ways." The designers say that the magnets are popular with mothers who can watch their children play on the refrigerator while they are in the kitchen, and are a good way to expose young children to different colors. The first in a series, the game/book concept will apply to a variety of texts on different subjects that Schechter and Shaltieli are already planning for the Ninya Books label. "We came up with the Ninya Books logo because the Nina was the smallest ship in Columbus's fleet when he sailed to America, so it signifies exploration and our quest for something innovative," explains Shaltieli. The pair are currently working with a friend in London on a translation into English, and they hope to publish the translated version this spring. "This first book is just the beginning," says Shaltieli. "We're already planning new creations for boys and girls on a variety of subjects that will explore different materials and places." Ani Rotza Simla Aheret is sold in Yeladoti stores across the country for NIS 69. For more information, call Adi at (054) 522-3190 or e-mail