Food for thought’
Media reportage over the past year has brilliantly emphasised the role a well-balanced diet of food-stuffs plays towards children’s development. Raising the profile of nutritional requirements has created a focal-point for an agenda of change which hopefully will mean ‘ in educational settings at least ‘ that no child will be malnourished or starved of the building blocks that fuel their development’
At this point, we need to speak up ‘ loud and proud ‘ as to the valuable roles that diverse narratives and indeed narrative forms play in our emotional development. If picture books are to remain merely as an educative preserve – nothing more than a transitional stepping stone towards independent reading – as a society we are depriving our children of rich visual and textual tapestries and of the resultant dynamic story-sharing that can and does accompany such weaving and unpicking! Stories form the vessels through which society passes down its learning, its history and its sense of self’ we must take care our actions as sensitive, sentient beings do not lead to the emotional emaciation of our future generation…
‘No Room For Napoleon’ with its vibrant and engaging illustrations and narrative typifies the kinds of adventuring and exploration imbued within successful picture-books. Aptly named Napoleon, a little dog with big ideas, at once fulfils the role of hero and anti-hero and constitutes both conflict and resolve within the book. His arrival, with telescope, on a Utopian island is initially welcomed by its inhabitants – Crab, Bunny and Bear – however, cracks in the animals’ friendship begin to appear as Napoleon’s ideas grow in size, breadth, depth and impact’
As well as exploring issues of friendship and of the unwitting bullying, or manipulation that arises through the story, illustration and text operate on dual and dialectic levels exploding into other arenas to create a neat summation of Colonial intent, comment on environmental conservation through the island’s shifts from Utopian paradise, to Dystopic nightmare, and arguably of patriarchal dominance also ‘ symbolised here through Napoleon’s telescope, a phallic construction utilised primarily as his access-point to the island and secondarily as his power-stronghold over Crab, Bunny and Bear.
If that sounds unlikely fare for the double-folds of a picture book, look at the story, think about its themes, subtleties and nuances and decide for yourself. Through empowering the use of picture-books regardless of age, ability or background, we are opening the door to infinite interpretations of visual and textual narrative strands, we are allowing readers to invest their own experiences, rationale and world-views, we are creating a base for infinite interpretation and discussion and are thereby realising just what makes reading such a singular recreational activity!
Needless to say Adria Meserve has crafted a story that motivates, inspires and truly does show the ‘dog’ in the dogmatist!