It’s not good enough to follow conventional methods of design. It is essential to invent & evolve new methods & new ideas. ~ Reginald Mitchell
I’ve chosen to review a children’s book for this week’s ‘Friday Reads’ because 1. at Green Door we will soon be announcing our new service for independent children’s authors, and 2. really good children’s books are rare (and I say this as a parent as well as a writer), so when a good one comes along it’s definitely worth a mention.
by Jonny Duddle
All we’ve heard about for at least the last decade is The Gruffalo (I know it was first published in 1999, but as with most things it took numerous years to become a household word). It certainly is an outstanding children’s book in its own right. Having a small boy (our very own Gruffalo’s Child), my husband and I can confidently recite the book from cover to cover (as can our son, an avid reader who has already loved several copies to death).
It was therefore a wonderful surprise to come across something as good as The Gruffalo but with Dinosaurs: Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle (what a fabulous name for a children’s author!).
This book has detailed digital illustrations by the author himself. As an illustrator myself, I have to admit that I’ve not been that wowed by digital art for children, but this one demonstrates that if you know what you’re doing you can create the depth and detail that usually only comes from physicalart. The illustrations are readable, original, and very inviting to a three-year-old’s imagination. There’s also a clever fold out when the ‘Gigantosaurus’ finally appears – the board book being too small to contain him. Speaking as a book designer, the only drawback for me is that the typography was a little less thought out than the illustrations, the story, and the cover. But this is where my criticism starts and stops.
The story is very much based on Aesop Fable ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf,’ and has some funny, if not a little dark, turns, which are very quickly followed by a happy resolve. It has a good moral message and is echoed in his dedication to his daughters: ‘To Daisy & Rosie – always follow your own path and don’t listen to boneheads! Love, Daddy xx’ (‘Bonehead’ being the ‘boy’ – a baby Ankylosaurus – who cried wolf).
As a rule, the problem with rhythmic stories for children – which you notice when you’re reading them out loud over and over again – is that you often find that you want to add or remove words to retain a more poetic flow than the original. The Gruffalo was one of the only books I’ve read where that isn’t the case, though unfortunately that level of attention wasn’t repeated in all the other books by Julia Donaldson. Gigantosaurus, however, flows brilliantly, almost perfectly. The repeated segments are catchy and easy for you and your child to remember, for example: ‘ “It’s just Triceratops!” Bonehead laughed. “You ran! You hid! You’re all so DAFT!”. ‘ The story is well paced and well told.
So if you have a child that loves being read to every night before bed, is dinosaur mad, and wants the same book over and over and over again, then this book won’t go extinct too soon!
#FridayReads by Gracie Carver