Yakov and the Seven Thieves

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Puffin Books
Oct 2005
When is a children�s book not a children�s book? The question is neither as facetious nor as frivolous as it might first appear. With the publication of an increasing number of �celebrity� written stories purportedly for children, the alleged new �cross-over� market and the production of collectors� editions of children�s books with a pricetag way beyond the means of the average child, when is a children�s book no longer for children?

One answer might be when it is written by Madonna! Yakov and the Seven Thieves is the third of Madonna�s five picture-books and sports the adage �for children (even grown up ones)� - presumably because otherwise it might not be easy to discern. It is not difficult to criticise Yakov and the Seven Thieves. Even the title does not convincingly match the story, in which only five true thieves are depicted. It would be callous, however, to criticise too harshly as, whatever else, one suspects that the writing of these books was genuinely important to Madonna.

The stories, though overtly moralistic, are doubtless well-intentioned. Yakov and the Seven Thieves posits the thought-provoking idea that the ill-deeds of others are external manifestations of areas internal to us that we should seek to change, or that the text somewhat predictably tars as �bad'. The idea itself is intriguing and one that certainly warrants both consideration and debate. Whether a picture book in the United Kingdom (where, sadly, such books are seen on the whole only as an intermediary step towards learning to read) is the best milieu for such discussion is doubtful.

Has Madonna, the Queen of popular re-invention lived up to the reputation she has acquired for challenging her audiences? Both yes and no. Despite being resplendently illustrated, there is none of that good-humoured interplay between text and illustration that makes successful picture books at once stimulating and dynamic. Here. the relationship between both can only be described as sterile. The area in which Yakov and the Seven Thieves succeeds so laudably, alongside Madonna�s other children�s titles, is not only in drawing question to the nature, definition and indeed parameters of children�s literature � always a worthy cause, if discussion and development in the field is to remain meaningful and responsive � but also in bringing the marginalised picture book in the UK to a less strictly age-segregated audience. For both reasons Madonna should be praised.

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on January 26, 2006 9:38 AM.

Dinosaur Chase was the previous entry in this blog.

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