Explore Dan Yaccarino’s World at New Exhibit
The Please Touch Museum treats the illustrator's work as art, and lets kids bring his stories to life.
The Please Touch Museum’s newest exhibit highlights the beauty of book illustrations while bringing those stories to delightful life.
“The Fantastic World of Dan Yaccarino,” which opened March 11, is a home-grown exhibit put together by the museum’s staff. The original illustrations from some of Yaccarino’s most-loved books — from Unlovable to Trashy Town — are framed on the walls, offering visitors the chance to admire them as art. Meanwhile, interactive play areas dot the floor of the exhibit, giving kids and parents the opportunity to lose themselves in the stories.
“This is where art meets play,” museum president and CEO Patricia D. Wellenbach said. “We wanted to do something creative and new.”
Yaccarino is a prolific illustrator who’s also known for his TV work, including the design of the characters for The Backyardigans and the creation of Willa’s Wild Life and Oswald. He’s a familiar face for the museum, Wellenbach said, and the exhibit staff was inspired by his work to create the exhibit, which runs through May 14.
Wellenbach said they were mindful of studies showing that children who are exposed to a museum early in their lives are more likely to continue to explore them — and that those who aren’t might never visit as adults. This exhibit may be a child’s first exposure to art for its own sake, she said, and that influenced the exhibit as well.
The pictures are beautiful, saturated with Yaccarino’s bright colors and filled with sweet images. And the play areas — essentially vignettes from the stories — are appealing too. Kids are drawn to the simulated campfire, complete with marshmallows for toasting, based on I Am a Story. They can curl up with one of Yaccarino’s books in the cozy Mr. Night’s Book Book, which picks up on Good Night Mr. Night, or explore the backyard of Alfred, the insecure pug from Unlovable.
Other interactive areas are sure to draw kids into the fun of storytelling, too. Two Mother Goose Story Booths offer children the chance to create and record their own stories, then email it home. One side is based on three large dice, each emblazoned with nouns; kids roll the dice, then start a story based on what comes up. The other side uses a three-part roller device to provide the idea-sparking words.
A unique play kitchen, based on Cooking With Henry and Elliebelly, will probably be the star of the show for most visitors. The cooking show set has a camera pointed at it, so children can watch themselves cook — and, of course, talk to the camera as if they were on their own show. It’s a magnet for any child with an interest in YouTube.
The museum is hosting a bunch of art-themed events during the exhibit’s run, aimed at cementing a child’s understanding and appreciation of what they see.
Young children can enjoy Tot Spot, held from 10:30 — 11 am Monday through Saturday and from 11:30 am — noon on Sunday, with songs and activities designed to help them socialize with others and learn. Yaccarino’s books will be featured in storytimes, held every day but Friday from 1:30 — 2 pm.
And in a nod to Yaccarino’s book Every Friday, each week on that day from 1:30 — 2 pm, kids can gather to read the story, then get help from an artist in telling their own story visually.
On March 25, the Philly troupe StoryUP! will visit the museum for a workshop from 11 — 11:30 am and performances at 1 and 2 pm in the Please Touch Playhouse.
The exhibit and all special programs are free with admission to the museum.
The Please Touch Museum is at 4231 Avenue of the Republic in Philadelphia. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9 am — 5 pm, and 11 am — 5 pm on Sunday.
Photographs by Casey Kallen.