Book Reviews: The Heavy, the Educational, The Whimsy & The Curios
Posted on November 27, 2014
A Story of Love & War
Once A Shepherd by Glenda Millard & Phil Lesnie
I won’t tell a lie, a few pages into this book and I was crying. Not just a a few tears, but all out weeping. I would like to say that it was because I was so touched – and I was, but I was crying because the story is tragic. You might think that the title is a bit of a give away, but I have read other picture books dealing with war, and none were so terribly eloquent as this. The water colour illustrations are beautiful, but you can see from this, most striking one, above, how graphically the story is told. The prose is exquisite, and heart breaking. ‘He wept ten thousand footsteps while a million raindrops fell. Once he marched right into hell.’ The overall story is about how wars erupt, and that they are senseless, and how the only way that we can “win” is by not relinquishing our humanity, though we may lose our lives, and those that we love, and this is how a legacy of peace and love might be attained. I don’t know what age group this is targeted at, because the themes are complex, and I wouldn’t personally even think of reading it to a child under twelve, but I love it. It is like a miniature literary vista.
Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
If they had have had books like this in my primary school geography lessons, my imagination would have been captured and caged for life. It is a very large book, larger than my baby daughter, and the hand illustrated pages contain maps of the world. It doesn’t feature every country in the world, but it covers a great many, and each map is covered in different details of what makes up that countries ethnic and geographic flavour. In some cases, the waters surrounding the country will be filled with illustrations of the sea life that swim and migrate there. There will be pictures of famous people from that country, national dishes and animals. There is a good dose of whimsy and charm. Fictional children are inserted into the pages so that, although there is no narrative as such, it is easy to make stories and adventures up. Children will be dreaming of travelling the world as they read. In a truly global world, this is such a great book for getting to really know about the rest of the world.
Gus & Me by Keith Richards and illustrated by Theodora Richards
I was won over by the absolute charm of this book on page one. The ageing guitarist tells the story of his grandfather, Theodore Augustus Dupree, who lived with seven daughters near the Seven Sisters Road. His grandfather had been a man of many instruments and many professions but now he was Gus, Keith’s grandad. Together they would walk the streets of London, full of stories and music, sometimes sleeping under the stars. Gus captured Keith’s attention in a legendary music shop, and from then on the little boy coveted his grandad’s guitar, until one day the old man handed it over and told him “When you learn to play Malagueno, you can play anything.”, and a guitarist was born. The writing style of this story is charming and simple and cool, and Keith’s daughter Theodora’s illustrations are lovely, retro,inspired etchings. A free CD is included with the book.
Coles Funny Little Picture Book (To Delight the Children and Make Home Happier)
I don’t know if this was a purely Melbourne and Victoria thing or not, but the Coles Funny Picture Book was always about when I was a child, despite the fact that it dates from the 19th century. If you are unfamiliar with the book and the extraordinary personage of EW Cole, he was an English man who migrated to Australia at the height of the Victorian gold rush. He tried his luck in Ballarat, but it was in Melbourne selling books that he made his great fortune. Coles Book Arcade went from Bourke Street all the way to Collins Street. “Coles trademark rainbow again graced the facade, and inside there were balconies for promenading, chairs for casual reading, conversation corners, a house band playing popular tunes, and many more marvels befitting a palace of the intellect.” The first Coles Funny Picture Book was released in 1879, and it was continuously in print for the next 100 years, and sold more than a million copies. Full of original Victorian black and white cartoons, rhymes and funnies, it is a fascinating time capsule of children’s entertainment. It has been reproduced in a small black hardcover featuring the trademark rainbow, and it is a treasure of a book.
Linking up with #FYBF over at With Some Grace