Ivor the Invisible
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Briggs aficionados will need to look at this one carefully. They may well have seen the animated film before the book, since it was screened on Channel Four during Christmas 2001. One wonders what measure of control Briggs had over the book - the story was written 'especially for the screen' and the blurb tells us that the book 'uses images based on his original drawings, selected and compiled by Sue Tong' who was the Art Director on the project. The story is by Briggs, but the language has little of the wit and energy to savour in, say, Fungus or Ug (and even the odd misprint in the balloons - 'wth' for 'with'). And, although this is a tale about an invisible giant, there is none of the dream-like quality of The Snowman or The Bear or the challenges of The Man. Nevertheless, it's still Briggs, which means there is the unerring selection of subject matter to engage young readers. John is visited by an Invisible Giant in search of a friend. The giant wreaks sundry kinds of amusing havoc around the house, in the park and in John's classroom. No doubt because the story was written with film in mind, there are many visually exciting and comical moments provoked by the mischief-making of an invisible pair of giant hands. There are one or two Briggsian scatalogical giggles, to say nothing of the giant scrawling 'Bum' and 'Poo' on the blackboard behind John's bemused teacher (though it does write 'Sory' later). There is much knockabout fun to enjoy and indeed plenty to work out as to what the giant is up to since it never does materialise. Yet somehow, the book doesn't quite feel like vintage, meticulous Briggs. At the end, for example, it turns out that the giant, whom John has named 'Ivor', is in fact called Beryl, and then the story needs a human girl to make the most of this misunderstanding. So we get one - she comes walking into John's living room; yes, we have met her before at the school and maybe in the park ... but is she John's sister, or just a friend, or what? The book simply feels a little less 'tight' than we expect from Briggs - though we do expect a masterpiece every time.