Sunday, 11 October 2015

2015 Picture Book Challenge: A Great Big Cuddle

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young

Published by Walker Books. I love A Great Big Cuddle. Chris Riddell and Walker hooked me the moment I held this big, square-format book in my hands and drank in that beguiling cover. What unfolds as you turn the pages is an active, textural journey through rhythm and ideas. Rosen and Riddell are masters each of their respective arts, and fuse together seamlessly here with the indispensible aid of the book design and typography, which contribute enormously. Rosen’s poems are highly rhythmical, some are action poems, some more contemplative, most just for fun. They form a tour of textures and associations, to which Chris Riddell amply plays harmony and counterpoint.

He's working here in what looks to be graphite and watercolour, which seems to loosen him up from the very controlled pen work he more commonly produces, immediately giving each character (animal, vegetable or mineral) a vibrant inner life.

The illustrations for each poem shine individually, but across the whole Riddell weaves additional stories and associations by creating a series of children and their toys/imaginary friends to recur throughout the book. There are also rhyming illustrations of certain species of animals, for example, in different contexts.

Importantly in a collection such as this, the illustrations all feel of a piece, while scaling a range of subjects, emotions and perspectives. All in all, I think this is the best picture book I've read for this challegne, Rosen, Riddell and everyone at Walker combining their efforts to shape not just a handsome book, but a lustrous one.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien (Walker Books)

Hoot Owl is hunting for food and thinks he's a master of disguise, but he's really not. Both the simplicity of this premise and the simplicity of the artwork play into the sophisticated character comedy that unfolds. Jean Jullien's illustrations, by themselves and as an integral part of the book's design, are a model of economy. Shape is conveyed by thick black dry-brush lines and depth by choice colour. The text folds naturally into the book's double-page designs.

Sean Taylor's eccentric first person narration for Hoot Owl provides the whole story with an ironic overview of success and failure. I was completely charmed by this book - it's beautiful.

The story of a lemur with a sleepwalking problem, Lemur Dreamer, is a nice, simple book. It's well drawn, makes good use of a restricted palette and delivers a story about friendship in a humorous and idiosyncratic way.

Katie McGinty Wants A Pet by Jenna Harrington and Finn Simpson (Little Tiger Press)

Katie McGinty is something of an odd book, but basically it’s quite fun. The pet Katie McGinty wants, it turns out, is a zebra, and she's implacable in her logic when she describes how she'll keep one. The illustrations are fussy and over-textured, which gives a very dense impression overall. The story is not without humour, but it's of a brittle sort as Katie McGinty's demands are unreasonable and her father's responses lame, but if you take the whole thing as a whimsy, it's OK.

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