Like most parents with small children, both my wife and I fell in love with the Gruffalo books along with our 3 year old son. Both the richly animated landscapes and well thought out characterisation of each animal were a triumphant addition to the books, making them international best sellers not just for children but for people of all ages too.
As the books were brought to life by a host of the UK’s most popular comics and narrative voices, every element took you on a journey into the dream like world of the Gruffalo.
As part of the Birmingham Gazette’s review series, we wanted to pick out a plethora of the most enchanting children’s books which take readers, and infant explorers on a different kind of adventure.
The first of two reviews, indeed is not a written story but has no word in it whatsoever, but successfully captures the imagination, and hypnotises the senses in a rather magical journey – Jim Curious and A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea
Portraying the story of Jim Curious, a young boy who goes on an adventure to the bottom of the sea in an old fashioned diving suit, Matthias Picard illustrates wondrous scenes in graphic style that come complete with a retro-come-futuristic 3-D effect, with stunning designs.
As I opened the book, the flat design is curious to the eye, the paper a rich quality that feels wholesome as each page is turned. On the back cover are two nicely packaged pairs of 3-D paper glasses, a real blast from the past to the 80s for me.
My son on the other hand has never seen anything produced in 3-D illustration, so I was thrilled to be able to show him something completely new. As we both put on our 3-D glasses it was a real event, with lots of laughter and surprise as he got into the viewing experience mode. It took him a few moments to get used to the shapes that came out of the page, iconic sea-scapes, old ship wrecks, strange corral formations, fish and SHARKS! The whole project was incredibly innovative. We definitely need to try and get hold of Matthias if we can to do a feature on him in more detail, where he trained, what inspired the book etc.
Jim Curious, by Abrams truly is a book for all ages. From the open eyed mesmerising approval of a toddler, through to older children and teenagers who go much deeper into the intricate detail of each illustration, and us slightly older still folks that quite simply just buzz off appreciating something we haven’t really seen before, this is a truly epic gift for any age group.
The second of the two reviews is a book that welcomes readers like the founder of a world renowned natural history museum, Animalium.
If like me your children love animals you’re probably always on the lookout for interesting stories, whether it’s Winnie the Poo, or Wind in the Willows.
Well, my son is very big on animals, perhaps more than most children his age. His first words were cow and dog, and he had gone a long way to acquiring a collection of small animal toys to rival Noah by his 2nd birthday.
Now however, Animalium took him on a whole different journey. He stared open eyed like a lion assessing its prey….at the front cover. Transfixed, he was bursting with excitement by the time I read him the first line, Animalium – Welcome to the Museum.
Not long afterwards he was repeating a vast array of some 160 different animals, one-by-one, even stroking the pages at the baby elephant and then telling me at page with the lion – “you can’t stroke that one daddy!”
It is a very odd (in a great way) experience. There is some kind of alchemy taking place with this book, it really seems as though something magical is happening, rather than just a normal read. It’s a unique blend of fascination, learning and magic – all locked within the pages of near A3 over-sized pages. Each chapter features a different branch of the tree of life, teaching you more and more page by page.
All I can say about Jenny Broom and Katie Scott’s inspiring work, is that Animalium has to be at the top of your list for your next purchase.
Both books are available at all good bookshops.