Tag Archives: Dave McKean

Jam!

Jam! Jam! Jam! Jam! Lovely Jam! Wonderful Jam!

I may have misquoted slightly, but I couldn’t resist. Jam goes in sandwiches, in porridge, on toast, in cakes, and in debates about whether strawberry or raspberry is best. Raspberry, obviously. And it can be mistaken for blood, which is what the following three books sort-of have in common.

jampires

Jampires: Sarah McIntyre & David O’Connell (David Fickling Books, 2014)

Jampires began life as a comic created by Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell, where one drew a page and the other one followed until a story appeared.  Encouraged by their publisher to transform the idea into a picture book, David and Sarah worked together to create Jampires. Sarah and David are both the author(s) and the illustrator(s) in this fabulous collaboration.

Sam is distressed to find his favourite treat dry and wrinkly, as if all the jam had been sucked out. Determined to catch the culprit, he sets a trap with ketchup filled doughnuts (yuck!), but ends up with more than he bargained with. Two small Jampires, a land of yummy treats that DG(5) wants to move to, and a deliciously sticky adventure.

The Jampires are far too cute to be scary, even with those fangs and red-smeared faces. You can find out more on the Jampires website, including the original comic and activities to download.

bernardBernard: Rob Jones (Beast In Show Books, 2014)

This is not only Rob Jones’ debut picture book, but the publisher’s debut too. Based on the quality of this, I expect Beast In Show Books, and Rob Jones, to have a rosy future ahead of them.

Bernard is the tale of a misunderstood wild dog. Poor Bernard, all alone on the moors with everyone afraid of him, and all he wants is your yummy tasty jam – eek, lock up your fridges!

Told in a minimal palette with strong lines and text taking a starring role, the bold style will appeal to even small children. Grown-ups, however, might find some of the images a little scary, especially one of the double spreads showing a close up of the hound’s mouth full of sharp pointed red-stained teeth and manic red pupils… Just hold your child’s hand and you’ll be fine.

Disclosure: Bernard received for review from Beast In Show Books.

The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2003)The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2003)

The slightly scary nature of Bernard, and his taste for jam, brought to mind the wolves from this classic Gaiman/McKean picture book. I reviewed The Wolves in the Walls a couple of years ago, and actually we haven’t read it this year so I’ve pulled it out to see what DG thinks of it now she’s five (MG doesn’t listen to stories at all any more, she prefers to read alone.) What this has in common with Bernard is that it’s a book that grown-ups will probably find more frightening than children will.

I think we forget that a book like Owl Babies is more terrifying to a small child than vampires or werewolves can ever be, or that children will just see jam as jam if that’s the context…

Fiction Fridays #13: The Wolves in the Walls

FF#13
The Wolves in the Walls: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean (2003)

Lucy walked around the house.

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I’d not thought of reading Neil Gaiman to my girls because they are my books. Including the picture books! See how this is mine, it’s signed to ME! And I got it four years before my eldest was born…

Apparently this is a scary book. My girls, however, have been brought up on a diet of Scooby Doo and Doctor Who so this kind of ‘scary’ doesn’t bother them at all. The wicked stepmother in Snow White or wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty? Terrifying, apparently. Monsters etc, no problem at all…

This looks like a scary picture to grown ups, but it’s not to children. That’s jam, you see, and if you read the book you know it’s jam, and what’s scary about wolves eating jam?

Which is not to say that there aren’t scary images in the book, depending on your definition of scary. For instance, a well-loved soft toy being left behind, well who wouldn’t find that terrifying?

This is typical Neil Gaiman in that it doesn’t talk down to children at all. And every strange happening is taken in a completely matter-of-fact manner: “We should go and live in the Arctic Circle,” said Lucy’s father. The Queen of Melanesia makes a brief cameo and of course Lucy, the youngest child, is the most sensible of them all. Partnered with Dave McKean’s atypical artwork, it makes for a picture book to stand out from the rest of the shelf.

Which are all things that make me love this book. But what about my two-and-almost-three-quarters year old and very-almost-five year old? This is a fairly long picture book, and my two girls sat silent and wrapped in the story the first time I read it to them. Afterwards I asked what parts they liked:
MG: When the wolves came out of the walls!
DG: Pig puppet!

DG’s two year old self of course being most concerned by the loss of a favourite toy and MG’s nearly five year old self loving the humour in the wolves. Pretty much spot-on developmentally I suspect…


On subsequent readings, they’ve still sat and listened intently but now with interjections from the eldest: “It’s all over!” MG is at a stage where she half-listens to books and then goes and draws whilst I continue reading (she is more interested in trying out her new reading skills and reading to us) and DG is definitely in a sensitive period for books as she regularly drops them on my lap demanding “You read it!” and “Again!” when I’ve finished.

I would hugely recommend this book, but some parents may find it too scary. The children should be fine though 😆

I suppose I’ll have to read my copy of The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish to my girls next then…