By Hervé Tullet
Press Here by Hervé Tullet is one of the most innovative, clever and sophisticated children's books published in recent years. Books can't get more interactive than this, yet it has absolutely no gimmicks, sounds or batteries in it. Pure paper. And imagination. Lots.
It starts off with a blank page and a yellow dot in the middle of it and invites you to "press here and turn the page". And the magic starts. On the next page, there are two yellow dots, and we are invited to press again and turn. The next page shows three dots. Here we are invited to rub one of them gently and turn the page, to discover we've made it go red. Over the next pages we are invited to tap a dot and turn the page (to discover our taps have generated a tower of dots), to shake the book and turn the page (to discover we've made all the dots move about the page), to press down hard on all the yellow dots (to discover on the following page we've made the light go off and it's all black), to blow hard "to get rid of the black", to clap and make the dots grow, and grow and grow, until we eventually end up with a white background and yellow dot again and are invited to do it all over again. Sheer genius. And a great little techno-generation joke.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Ellen Duthie
Press Here touches on two main philosophically interesting issues, namely, causality and the paradox of fiction.
The paradox of fiction
The paradox of fiction refers to people being "moved" (normally emotionally) by fictional characters, events or situations despite knowing that they are fictional and not real. How can we explain that we feel sad for a character in a book even though we know that they do not really exist? Or that we feel frightened by a monster in a film, despite knowing that no such monster exists? Or, in the case of Press Here, that we reach out and press, or blow, or clap, despite knowing that we are not really making anything happen when we do so?
Philosophers of art have tried to explain this paradox in different ways. Some have suggested that, with fiction (at least with good fiction), we enter a special state whereby we willingly suspend disbelief and -at least momentarily- embrace it as "real". Others suggest that it's not entirely accurate to say we are moved by fictional characters or events. When we say we feel sad for a character in a book, what we are really saying is that we feel sorry for people in real life who could be in that situation or in a similar situation. Others suggest that it is another form of "pretending" or make-believe (that is, we don't "really" feel sad or frightened, we are just pretending).
Press Here is interesting in this way, because, although not strictly emotionally, it does move us in a very clear way, to take part and engage in the illusion that we are making things happen in the book, even though we know very well we are not. And this does not only happen the first time we read it. It happens again and again every time we look at it.
Press Here plays with the assumption that our actions are "causing" things to happen; that when we press a dot, we make it duplicate, that when we blow, we get rid of the black, that when we clap, we make the dots grow, etc. In doing so, it raises timeless philosophical questions regarding causality.
The philosophical questions raised by Press Here are quite abstract and may suit slightly older primary school children. Younger children will still enjoy thinking about some of the questions about the paradox of fiction though.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The paradox of fiction