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This issue’s cover is from Edward Ardizzone’s Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain. Brian Alderson discusses this classic picture book, now reissued in a beautiful new edition by Scholastic in ‘Classics in Short’. Thanks to Scholastic Children’s Books for their help in producing this January cover.
Thomas Moon lives up to his surname – a trainee spaceman in his imagination, just mooning about for the world outside. He prepares for astronaut training whilst his real life is increasingly fraught, climaxing in suspension from school. There is a clever use of e-mails, with all the jargon of their headings to give us strange messages from beyond. And the book has some wonderfully funny scenes where fantasy and real worlds collide: astronaut training using the facilities of the real world has him spending hours in the local hotel’s jammed lift, eating only from tubes and sleeping vertically in a sleeping bag fixed to the door. When suspended, he appears at school, moonwalking in his space suit made up of layers of clothes topped off by six track suits, a rucksack front and back and a motorcycle helmet. The two worlds are beautifully linked into the world of story, a flight of fancy, a parabola of take off (into space in one, on the train in another) and return to earth. Thomas Moon is brought down to earth, recovered in both senses. He wonders, having tricked us too, what you can ‘ do with an overactive imagination’. The answer, in the final line, is a fitting climax to a very clever and thoroughly enjoyable book.