Take Care On Your Own ¦ Take Care Near Water
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The cover of this issue is a design incorporating illustrations from four books illustrated by the subject of our Authorgraph, Ian Beck. The top left illustration is from Five Little Ducks (Orchard), the top right from Poppy and Pip's Picnic (to be published Autumn '97 by HarperCollins), the bottom left from The Owl and the Pussy-cat (Transworld) and the bottom right from Home Before Dark (to be published September '97 by Scholastic). Ian Beck's Picture Book (Hippo) is reviewed in this issue.
Beck talks to BfK's interviewer, Julia Eccleshare, also in this issue. His distinctive decorative style with its sensitive pen line and cross hatching has a nostalgic but sometimes also a surreal quality - he describes it as 'a look that is floating, strong and wistful all at the same time'.
Thanks to Orchard, HarperCollins, Transworld and Scholastic for their help in producing this composite cover.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has produced these two large format, glossy books, together with two others, Take Care At Home and Take Care on the Road, with the aim of encouraging children 'to think about accident prevention from an early age'. This is a worthy aim, but one that has to be done very well indeed if children are not to be made inordinately fearful.
Both books are very attractive; full colour, clearly printed and illustrated with bright photographs. The language is mostly straightforward - although at what age a child might be expected to use a glossary in order to find out what a shop supervisor is illustrates the first problem with the series - what age is it aimed at? The children in the photographs vary from about three to about ten years old - which means that advice such as, an adult should always be with you when you are having a bath' works only for the younger end of the range, who probably have very little control over the actions of their adults anyway (what is the child to do if they are left alone?). There are other contradictions in the messages, too. The On Your Own book begins by suggesting, quite rightly, that there are times when we need and want to be alone, when we are upset, on the toilet or when we want to be quiet - and then goes on to state firmly, 'it is not good to be on your own at home'. The photograph on the page dealing with bullying shows two children apparently having good fun together. There is some good stuff in this book, however. I am pleased to see that strangers are dealt with positively as often being kind and helpful, and the message is that you should never go with anyone unless your adult knows about it. The perfidious 'stranger danger' campaign is finally laid to rest. I would use this book, carefully and selectively with children from about 5 to 10 or so.
However, I would be much more reluctant to use Near Water. This is simply a continuous collection of warnings and dangers, with no positive message that I can detect. There is enough fear and dread of the world in most young children without making them feel that they can do nothing in the outside world safely and happily. No child who took this depressing book to heart would ever be able to enjoy a day at the sea, or even feeding the ducks, again. Be careful, you might drown, is an important message but wet and muddy fields are not life threatening and most children do not need to be made frightened of their own padding pools.
To sum up, use these books very carefully - never leave a child alone with them!