The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe ¦ The Adventures of King Arthur ¦ The Amazing Adventures of Ulysses
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Our cover this issue features Tucker and Co., Phil Redmond, Fontana Lions, 0 00 6701 27 X, 85p.
It is also available in hardback from BBC Publications, 0 563 20053 7, £4.50 in March. We are grateful for help from Fontana in putting the book on our cover in full colour. Cover photos, by Douglas Playle, show Todd Carty, Erkan Mustafa, Nadia Chambers, Lee MacDonald, Lee Sparke, Paula Taras and Alison Vettles.
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
Retold by Angela Wilkes
The Adventures of King Arthur
Retold by Angela Wilkes
The Amazing Adventures of Ulysses
Retold by Heather Amery and Vivian Webb
I was excited at the prospect of a series aiming to produce retellings of classic stories in bright pictorial formats, but I've mixed feelings about the first two. The page layout is curious: four or five, sometimes six small pictures to a page and the text divided in short lines beneath the pictures. This makes for some very confusing line breaks and clips the author's style, which isn't too bad in this difficult genre, especially in the King Arthur stories. The 'Crusoe' retelling spreads over 32 pages so that with the unusual format, even the intrepid nines and tens who read it for me found it hard going. The pictures are vivid, but very "text-bookish" - what a superby imaginative picture book could have been produced from Defoe's story.
"King Arthur" fares better, with more breathing space - and there are eight separate stories which make it less of an obstacle race. It's good for children and teachers to have these stories in an accessible form, but I'd still spend my money on imaginative artistry like Selina Hastings' new "Sir Gawain" (see Chris Powling's Christmas pick - B.F.K. Nov. 1981) or on Roger Lancelyn Greene's splendid retellings.
The Ulysses book clarified my doubts about the over-simplification of content and the folksy format: it underestimates the form. The young need retellings and illustrations which catch the awe and magic which is in the tones of the original (and in many superb retellings). This might be a bridge for the young to get to more sustained versions, but I can't help thinking that they would be sold short while making the crossing. Not one of Usborne's better ideas.