Mabel and Me Best of Friends: Mark Sperring & Sarah Warburton (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)
Unlikely friends are a common theme in children’s books. Unlikely friends. But let’s think about that for a bit. Terry Pratchett writes in his Discworld novels that million-to-one chances work out nine times out of ten and it seems to me that unlikely friends are just as likely. I’ve written before how author / illustrator partnerships where the collaborators are friends seem to produce books that stand out more, whether they were friends before or became friends from working together, and the partnership of Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton shines through in Mabel and Me Best of Friends.
I’ve loved Sarah Warburton’s work for several years now and have previously raved about The Princess and the Peas, a collaboration with Caryl Hart. I’m not sure Caryl and Sarah knew each other well before working on The Princess and the Peas but they certainly completely “got” each other and what was needed there, and Sarah showcases her talent for matching pictures to text again with Mabel and Me.
Mabel and Me‘s unlikely friendship is between a little girl and her “strange little creature thing with scrawny hairy rodent legs” friend. “Me” takes centre stage with Mabel only saying a few words throughout the book, although these words are significant as well as being “hugely harrowing and diabolically difficult” on occasion.
The words chosen throughout the story are spot-on. Many phrases from this book have entered the everyday subconscious of the Chaos household. “Hey, you, you in the tutu!” being a particular favourite. But it’s not just the words that are spot-on; each character’s expression conveys so much meaning. The shocked faces of Monsieur Famous French Photographer and Senora Prima Ballerina (and what wonderful names they are too!); Me’s perplexity, indignation and forlornness (amongst others); and most of all the looks of friendship between Mabel and Me.
There is too much to love about this book. From the copyright page styled as a wall with posters pasted on; the end papers showing the characters in daytime and night; the detailing of the city they walk through; the cat in one window eying up a goldfish in another; the fez and stetson thrown in the air (Fezzes are cool!); the photobooth with a mustache; more wall posters…
The detail in the illustrations make this book a joy to read over and over again, plus give so many jumping points for follow on projects: houses and architecture; Europe; ballet; photography; design; dance; emotions… Not to mention what can be taken from the text: alliteration; mixed-up sayings…
Overall and beyond all that, this is a lovely story about friendship that we all enjoy on different levels. Although suitable for toddlers and up, there is so much in Mabel and Me that makes it perfect for older children so I’d recommend for any household with children aged 2-10.
Mabel and Me Best of Friends is currently out in hardback with RRP of £12.99 and is worth every penny; it’s out in paperback on 4th July.
You can read a lovely story behind the creation of the book and a newsflash mini-story starring Mabel and Me on Sarah Warburton’s blog plus an interview with Sarah here. I’m not leaving Mark out on purpose, I just couldn’t find much of an online presence to share!
Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Mabel and Me Best of Friends by Sarah Warburton and HarperCollins Children’s Books for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.
Sarah also wrapped the book beautifully and added some lovely extras, which made me squeak loudly when we opened the package. Huge and extra-special thank-yous from us all to Sarah xx