Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 Picture Book Challenge: The Zoomers' Handbook

The Zoomers' Handbook by Anna & Thiago de Moraes

Published by Andersen Press. The Zoomers' Handbook takes the form of a bestiary of imaginary creatures and introduces ideas of zoomorphism and taxonomy in a refined and witty way. The composite animals are all very well designed to display their characteristics and inherent humour, the line drawings at once lively and controlled. The muted colour palette gives just enough definition to work and no more.

The primary tool of the writing is recontextualisation and this also defines the relationship between word and image, generating plenty of jokes and ideas (as good nonsense and surrealism do) in the friction between. It's vital to say that the book's design is an equal contributor, as each choice in layout and typography is well-considered and advances the communication. It's not essential, but it's a nice touch that the endpapers furnish addditional zoological notes and illustrations.

I really enjoyed this one, and it was a pleasure to read something made with such care, skill and sensitivity.

This is my Rock by David Lucas (Flying Eye Books)

David Lucas makes great hay with a simple story of sharing by turning his focus to an exploration of the graphic plane and the boundary between the figurative and decorative.

The narrative thread at the book's core provides a satisfying experience for the younger (and older reader), while supporting Lucas' ability to play with his aesthetic enquiry. A satisfying book on several levels.

What a Naughty Bird! by Sean Taylor and Dan Widdowson (Templar Publishing)

My fourth Sean Taylor book of the year recalls the first, Hoot Owl, by focusing on a comically idiosyncratic bird who narrates his own story. This is a much more straightforward affair, with a simpler text, in verse, that unfolds a single joke. The naughty bird of the title earns his name by an irrepressible urge to poo on fellow animals. The book's scatological trajectory is well sustained by illustrator Dan Widdowson, who pays off all of Sean Taylor's set-ups with eloquent variants on the visual gag.

The book is pacy, funny and introduces the idea of retribution, in the Biblical sense, at its terminus, but it is very slight. I would probably rate this the least interesting of the Sean Taylor books I've read this year.

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