Maira Kalman’s exuberant illustrations and humorous commentary bring design history to life in this inspired ABC book that celebrates thirty-one objects from the Cooper Hewitt, in time for its long-awaited reopening. "A. Ah-ha! There you Are." begins Maira Kalman’s joyfully illustrated romp through the treasures of Cooper Hewitt’s design collection. With her signature wit and warm humor, Kalman’s ABC book introduces children and adults to the myriad ways design touches our lives. Posing the question "If you were starting a museum, what would you put in your collection?", Kalman encourages the reader to put pen to paper and send in personal letters—an intimate, interactive gesture to top off her unique tour of the world of design. Objects ranging from a thirteenth-century silk thinking cap to 1889 tin slippers with bows, all the way to Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig-Zag chair are brought to colorful life. Kalman’s hand-lettered text is whimsical and universal in turns, drawing lessons as easily from a worn old boot as a masterpiece of midcentury modernism. Irresistibly, we are led to agree, "Everything is design."
Only the mischievous Kalman (Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything) could make an alphabet book in which "poodle" appears under E. The poodle lives at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City; it's a 19th-century earthenware figurine with a quizzical look on its face. Kalman's hand-lettered caption reads, "E. (Except for your dog) this is the cutest dog on Earth." The text is in black, except for the Es, which are jauntily picked out in red. He joins a selection of design curiosities Kalman has chosen to commemorate the museum's reopening, and her wonderful loopiness spills out from every page. Q is for toaster: "Quite the toaster," she writes. N is for toilet: "Now might be a Good Time to go the bathroom. No worries. We will wait for you." The idea that objects can be recognized for the quality of their design will be new to many readers, and Kalman's warm, affectionate gouaches only enhance their charm. Photographs of the objects and a bit of contextual history about the museum round out this romp through its collection. All ages.