Ways of Seeing: The Books and Photographs of Tana Hoban

Eliza Clark
February 24, 2010

It is often said that "the world is a classroom" and that is true for no one more than for young children. Before the school years begin, they learn, for the most part, just by taking it all in: touching, tasting and smelling, listening, and above all, looking.

No one understood this better than Tana Hoban, the prolific and brilliant photographer and children's book creator. Tana Hoban began her career in the 1940s, photographing mainly children, and some of her pictures are now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In the 1970s, she turned to taking pictures for young children, which she collected in a series of beautiful books. Many of these are still in print, and we hope they will remain so for years and years to come.

Hoban's books are all about how small children see and learn from ordinary objects in the world around them. Her photographs are often stark, and always graphically captivating. She focused on shapes, sizes, and numbers expressed in daily environments. She wrote, for example, that "A neat row of garbage cans sitting in the bright sun inspired me to do the counting book, 'Count and See.'"

Children love the way these books reflect their own perception of the world. And Tana Hoban also reminds parents just how much there is for a kid to learn from a walk down the block and a conversation about what she sees:

"Through my photographs and through open eyes I try to say, 'Look!' There are shapes here and everywhere, things to count, colors to see and always, surprises."

Below are a few of our favorite Tana Hoban titles -- take a look for yourself, and see! 

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban

Cubes, Cones, Cylinders and Spheres by Tana Hoban

Is It Larger? Is It Smaller? by Tana Hoban

Exactly the Opposite by Tana Hoban

Count and See by Tana Hoban

From the Parents

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