Saturday, 5 October 2013

the pecking order

In writing about picture books, the general rule in the press is, say nothing if you have nothing good to say.  I once noted that a sure sign that I had become famous would be getting bad reviews.  If you are famous enough then people feel compelled to say something even if it isn't good at all.  What I didn't realise is that there is a third category that I seem to have fallen foul of this year.  That is being used as a handy example to show when one thing hasn't worked as well as another in the opinion of the reviewer. 

Here are snippets from two articles, one about Memory Palace and one about interpreting classic texts:

Tinkering with literary classics, whether children’s or adults’, can take many forms and yield mixed results. How to do it with style and in the process create something new, clever and funny may be seen in Julia Donaldson’s The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat (Puffin, £10.99). The couple’s “beautiful ring” has been stolen by a marauding crow, so off they go in search of it in their “beautiful blue balloon”. Adventures and encounters ensue. Donaldson, adhering to Edward Lear’s love of the nonsensical, wonderfully captures the spirit of the original, as does the humour of Charlotte Voake’s watercolour illustrations...
Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, “illustrated and abridged by Alexis Deacon” (Hutchinson, £11.99), raises many questions about what can happen to a classic text when it is reinterpreted for a young readership. Striking as the illustrations are, particularly in their symbolic depiction of seasonal change, the story itself undergoes radical transformation in tone and detail, resulting in the loss of its poignant central themes of redemption and forgiveness. There is a world of difference between Wilde’s closing sentence and the one we are given here.

(article by Robert Dunbar for the Irish Times - read it in full on their website)

Certainly Stefanie Posavec's prints – representing The Booming, The Withering and The Wilding with fine lines and simple forms – are effective and moving. But their careful, subtle development highlights the weaknesses of Nemo Tral’s fussy, overly drawn prints.
Similarly, because Luke Pearson‘s stark, refined black and white graphics depict the prisoner’s interrogations so much more effectively than Alexis Deacon's illustrations, the latter’s resemblance to water-colour cartoons loses its impact.

(review by West Camel foe Culture Compass - read the whole thing on their site )

As far as I can tell this is the worst of both worlds ^-^!   sigh.


  1. Having still not seen a whole copy of the Giant, and having huffed something along the lines of "I'm not paying seven quid visit an exhibition I'm not allowed to sketch in" to the attendant at Memory Palace (on principle I won't enter anywhere with "No Drawing" signs), I don't think I'm qualified to harumpphh here, but harumpphh anyway. I'll leave my rant about the relative merits of updating Edward Lear for a less public forum. Harumpphh I say!

  2. What is it with that no sketching thing!? I'm always complaining about it when I go to shows elsewhere and now I'm in a show where they don't allow it! I wonder what the justification is this time? I should ask...

  3. They told me it was to do with copyright. I pointed out that I would have to be a superhuman genius with a pencil to manage to infringe copyright with a pencil drawing, but then I realised the poor fella had no say in the sign he was told to stand behind.

  4. People always get fussy about retellings. I once read a ragingly angry review about "Dwarf Nose" by someone who thought it was a jazzed-up modern retelling of a Grimm's Fairytale by some random hack called "Andersen". They insisted it was NOTHING LIKE THE ORIGINAL WHICH WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO THEIR CHILDHOOD.
    In other news, today I saw your Giant topping a display of great picture books at the National Theatre. In old news, it's bloody brilliant.