The Art of Clean Up: life made neat and tidy by Ursus Wehrli is a very funny and very clever book.
I can’t say that I think the idea of tidiness or cleaning for a children’s book would be all that relevant or of interest. But after going through this very quirky book, I’m willing to change my mind. I think it will hold and engage almost anyone.
Ursus Wehrli , besides being uber-organized, is a typographer, a comedian, live performer and freelance artist. His humour and penchant for ‘tidying’ things is played out with flare in this book.
Let me give you some examples. On each set of facing pages we are given a photo of a fairly commonplace scene from everyday life. Clothes hanging out to dry, a child playing in a sand box, an aerial view of a car park or a school ground with playing children, a bouquet of flowers, a decorated Christmas tree or a pile of pretzels to give you a range of the mundane and ordinary that we surround ourselves with.
But if you were to take the ‘chaos’ away from each of these and prettied them up, life would be less jumbled, way more orderly and colour coded to boot.
Clothes on a clothesline would be grouped according to colour and displayed rainbow-like. The child playing in the sandbox with various plastic toys, would now be sitting (and no doubt marveling) at very neatly arranged rows of pails, rakes and shovels, sieves, watering cans, sand molds and dump trucks displayed on freshly raked sand. The messy mound of bent pretzels is now shown as two rows of straightened, salted snack food. Who knew that a Christmas tree ‘broken down’ into its component parts would equal a pile of needles, a bundle of kindling, one stand, a coil of tinsel, one pointy tree topper and several rows of red and silver round ornaments, hooks and lights? Kind of takes the romance away, but that’s what makes it funny. It plays with our expectations. Now if only I could get my decorations to look even half as neat.
It becomes somewhat of a game trying to see all the components between the before and after pictures. Take a look at the book cover above. What are those white dots lined up with all the various pieces of fruit found in a bowl of fruit salad? Why it’s the polka dots that were on the bowl, of course.
Besides the visual humour factor, I do think there could be some classroom application when it comes to pattern making and observation skills. This isn’t the book you’d use to introduce young children to the concept of patterns in the earliest primary grades. But older children will be able to work things out. Might be a book that you can model your own attempts to tidy up and get organized once and for all. Not a crucial resource but one that is lots of fun.