One of the things that makes our work challenging with Little Zebra is that we are constantly trying new things. We’re illustrating books for a language that has never had books. And quite often we have to guess at how books will be received and how they will be used. That’s why I’m really grateful for the work of Jeni and Veronica in Mozambique. They are taking our books out and actually using them and as a result they get lots of interesting feedback on what works and what doesn’t. For example, one of my favorite books is the Hyena book. It’s artsy and dramatic. But that is one of our least popular books. Possibly the subject matter is too dark (a woman is eaten by a hyena!) or the artwork is too abstract. Whatever the case, people when given a choice tend to pick simpler more colorful books like the bean book. The bean book is our most popular book. And that strikes me as quite funny because it was the easiest and cheapest book to create. I put the book together myself using clipart of beans and a very simple layout. Some of the other books we have created have taken months of work and thousands of dollars. But they can’t compare to the popularity of the humble bean!

Last weekend, Jeni and Veronica led 50 teachers in a session on how to use Little Zebra books in their classrooms. The teachers created lesson plans and made posters based on our books. In the photo below you can see once such poster. The teachers have cut up one of the bean books and used it to talk about colors. This was an unexpected use. The book is about counting in Nyungwe and the teachers are using it to teach colors in Portuguese.

bean book and colors
Teacher use the Little Zebra bean book to create a poster about colors.

One of the things that this made me realize is that we need to bump up the amount of color in these books and make it more consistent. The pages have a number in one color and a border in another. So maybe we can make the border thicker and also use the same color for the border and number.

All of this is great experience and will just result in our books being more and more useful. The bean books are disappearing so fast that we’re going to have to do another printing. That will be a good time to make some changes to the layout and design.

Unexpected Uses