A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
For the past few months I’ve been on a picture book spree. I haven’t blown this much money on books since I was a teenager, and it’s possible that I might be just the teeniest bit hooked on picture books. The book I bought at the start of this spree was Black Dog by Levi Pinfold, which I’d read about in a news article after it won a prestigious book prize – The Kate Greenaway Medal – awarded to a children’s book that is outstanding in terms of illustration.
The blurb for Black Dog doesn’t give away much:
One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family. Mr Hope was the first to see it…
The cover quote from Sally Morris writing in the Daily Mail was more intriguing and talked of “the underlying emotional message” and “confronting your fears” but it wasn’t until I did some googling and saw a sample of the award-winning illustrations that I was sold. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book with such beautiful artwork, and I have since spent hours appreciating it. Black Dog is one of the most beautiful things I have ever purchased and it cost less than a coffee shop cake and cuppa.
Black Dog is a poignant tale about a family who barricade themselves in their ramshackle little house when confronted with an external threat, and it is the youngest member of the household who fearlessly ventures outside and faces that threat, and in doing so discovers the threat wasn’t so very great at all.
This book proved such a big hit in my household, that I went and bought all the other books on the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist, and then I purchased the shortlist for 2012, which was possibly a little excessive, but what the heck: money spent on books is rarely money wasted. This year’s shortlist was how I discovered the wonderful, Oh No, GEORGE! by Chris Haughton. Its blurb is as follows:
George wants to be good.
He tries to be good.
But he has just seen a cake in the kitchen…
What will George do?
Oh No, GEORGE! is a humorous story about a dog with some impulse-control issues; issues that will be familiar to almost every dog-owner on the planet. Take a moment to look at George’s expressive face. Was there ever a dog that looked more lovably guilty?
As the story progresses and as George faces various challenges, the reader is invited to ask “What will George do?”, and is encouraged to join in the refrain of the title when he gets things wrong, which makes the book feel fun and interactive. George isn’t always naughty, however, and he cleans up his act halfway through the book, only to be faced with true temptation on the final page, which leads to a cliff-hanger ending.
It’s probably too early to be thinking of Christmas gifts, but either of these books would make an excellent present for a young child, as they are clever stories with wow-factor illustrations. Both Oh No, GEORGE! and Black Dog feature cool dogs in starring roles and should appeal to most animal-crazy children. Mind you, the canines in question are very different beasts: the black dog in Pinfold’s tale is an animal whose size increases and decreases depending on the viewpoint of the beholder, whereas George is consistent in his size, but is absolutely not consistent in his behaviour. Black Dog is a more mature tale with more intricate illustrations and may appeal to slightly older children, and Oh No, GEORGE! will delight pre-schoolers and reception-age children.
So there we have it: two exceptional picture books and VL’s first mention of The Other C-Word (and it’s still only September. Apologies to our readers who think Christmas shouldn’t be mentioned until mid-December. You are, of course, quite right).
Oh No, GEORGE! published by Walker Books, £6.99, paperback. ISBN – 978 1406344769.
Black Dog published by Templar Publishing, £6.99, paperback. ISBN -9781848777484.