Childrens' Books: And They Didn't Necessarily Live Happily Ever After. ; Children's Picture Books Usually Steer Clear of Adult Emotions, but Nicola Smyth Finds Some Writers and Artists Who Are Not Afraid to Scare the Littlies and Move Their Parents
Smyth, Nicola, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
There's something very refreshing about sitting down with a large pile of picture books. Unlike the diet of wizardry and other pseudo- Pottery served up to the over-sevens, picture-books remain largely the preserve of the natural world, not the supernatural. The occasional dragon sneaks in, the odd witch, but the majority of cast members are still nice, cheerful, rotund farmyard animals.
The best specimens of this are to be found down on Faraway Farm (Ian Whybrow & Alex Ayliffe, Orchard pounds 10.99). While Farmer Flat gets on with driving his tractor and feeding the pigs, small people can be kept amused by the bright, detail-filled backdrops. Stools and pails might not be top of their vocabulary lists, but there's a constant supply of kittens in every frame. Another farmyard favourite with my daughter " though I confess it drove me slightly bonkers " is Baby's Shoe by Ros Asquith & Sam Childs (Hutchinson pounds 10.99). The footwear in question gets lost somewhere on the farm, so the baby's elder sibling spends a lot of time vaulting in and out of stables, pigpens and hen coops looking for it. It has a good, solid rhyming structure, with an ever- expanding list of animals who help with the search, but I found it worked better if I only read out every other page. Oh, and baby's shoe is in the pram all the time. Grrrrr.
Top of the many rhyming stories on offer is Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose (Macmillan pounds 9.99). Produced by the ubiquitous Julia 'Gruffalo' Donaldson and Nick 'Pants' Sharratt, the bold illustrations form a long panorama of feasting wildlife, from fussy Duck ('Carrots " yuck!') to angry Rabbit. When all the food is gone, leaving just the washing up, happy Moth finds her own solution ('I'll eat the cloth'). A perfect marriage of words to pictures, it limits itself to a line per page so even the smallest reader can't lose patience. And it comes on special, toddler-proof paper.
Once Upon a Tide (David Fickling pounds 10.99) is told in verse, too. Selina Young's seascapes are gorgeous, but rather delicate so more suited to the sensibilities of the over-threes. Tony Mitton's text, filled with shanties, treasure chests and shingle, has a pleasing narrative arc that takes its hero and heroine into the far- off future, rather than just depositing them back home in time for bed.
Plaudits must go to Barefoot Books, though, for the season's most colourful and consistently high-quality titles. You'll have to wait a couple more weeks for them, but the prolific Stella Blackstone has three goodies on the way. A Dragon on the Doorstep (illus Debbie Harter, pounds 10.99); Alligator Alphabet (pounds 10.99), which takes an unusual approach to the A-Z (X is for Xoona Moth), and is beautifully illustrated by Stephanie Bauer. And lastly, I Wish I Were a Pilot (illus Max Grover, pounds 10.99), which contains every mode of transport that could possibly be of interest to pre- schoolers, and a factfile at the back to occupy their elders. They are also responsible for Myron's Magic Cow (pounds 10.99). It's too text-heavy for any but the oldest consumers in the picture-book market, but the story " by first-timer Marlene Newman " is wonderfully served by illustrator Jago's pictures. It incorporates genies, Jack and the beanstalk, Ali Baba and a golden egg. And all in the course of a trip to the …
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Publication information: Article title: Childrens' Books: And They Didn't Necessarily Live Happily Ever After. ; Children's Picture Books Usually Steer Clear of Adult Emotions, but Nicola Smyth Finds Some Writers and Artists Who Are Not Afraid to Scare the Littlies and Move Their Parents. Contributors: Smyth, Nicola - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent on Sunday (London, England). Publication date: August 7, 2005. Page number: 22,23. © 2009 The Independent on Sunday. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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