May 2010 Archives

The Heart And The Bottle

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Oliver Jeffers
HarperCollins
9780007182305
March 2010
Top marks to HarperCollins for the way they have designed and produced this fine work of art (guided by the artist himself, no doubt). Jeffers is exactly that, an artist who works in many formats, picture books being just one of them. A visit to his website - www.oliverjeffers.com - is recommended.

As for this particular title, I believe I love every single thing about it, from the shade of yellow on the book jacket, to the hand-written author/illustrator name, to the charming opening endpaper drawings, to the opening spread with its high horizon, wide treetrunked landscape with thinly growing flowers, a man with a walking-stick looking on as a young girl bends inquisitively towards the flower in the foreground... all the way though to the final endpapers and their biology-lesson-style drawings of a human heart.

This is an impressively moving story about the loss of childhood wonder and its eventual rediscovery. We see the girl, never named, taking delight in all she encounters, until one day she comes upon an emblematically empty chair. Suddenly her whole world becomes empty and heartless. She shuts her heart away in a bottle, lives safely but unfeelingly in a humdrum world.

I like particularly the two pages that Jeffers creates to show us how hard it is for the girl to get her heart back. She is shown at a workshop table, all possible tools at hand, but none of them will smash the bottle and free the heart. She is shown atop a high brick wall, dropping the bottle from a great height, but it just bounces.

It takes another girl, as alive and full of wonder as she once was, to help her free the heart and put it back where it belongs. She ends the book sitting in the high-backed emblematic chair, reading, a pile of books at her side, and a big thought cloud rising above her, teeming with a splatter of differing images.

This is a very fine book, ready to be enjoyed on many different levels, by many diferent ages.



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Monster Day At Work

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Sarah Dyer
Frances Lincoln
9781847800695
February 2010
Wonderfully amusing illustrations in this join-dad-at-work-day story. Rush hour has everyone skating to work in a double-page-spread that will have children lingering over each of the different scooters. The 'morning meeting' spread is fun too, with dad's arm around Monster and the table festooned with an assortment of memos, coffee cups and plates of biscuits and cakes. To be frank, not a lot happens during the rest of the day, so the trick to enjoying this picture book will be in savouring the pictures and improvising the telling. The ending teeters on a working-dad housewife-mum stereotype, perhaps not sufficiently compensated for by the irony of the final words, accompanying the picture of mum, broom in one arm, hoover in the other: "Who has it easy too."