Bram Stoker’s Dracula
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This issue’s cover illustration is from Brian Wildsmith’s The Hare and the Tortoise (© Brian Wildsmith 1966) published by Oxford University Press and re-issued in 2007 (978 0 19 272708 4, £5.99 pbk). Brian Wildsmith’s work is discussed by Joanna Carey in this issue. Thanks to Oxford University Press for their help with this March cover.
Vampires are in vogue once again, perhaps on the back of the multi-million dollar Twilight industry. So the resurrection of one of the classic bloodsuckers in an inventively packaged, large novelty picture book version is timely. In fewer than thirty openings, a very readable skeleton of Bram Stoker’s narrative and his use of diary entries, ships’ logs, newspaper clippings, occasional letters and telegrams are preserved. In addition, as young readers search the attractively crowded pages, they will discover ‘a bite-sized travel guide to Transylvania’, a secret map of Castle Dracula, medical notes on hypnotism and the use of garlic; and the endpapers offer a spin-the-wheel board game entitled ‘Escape from Dracula’. They will also be invited to ‘Pull Here!’ to transform the Count’s victim Lucy Westenra from rosy-cheeked beauty to whey-faced witch; or to sink Dracula’s fangs savagely into the sleeping Mina’s neck. Most startlingly, as a page is turned, a veritable plague of bared-teeth rats springs up towards the reader’s face. There is some needless compromise, maybe in the spirit of the Horrible Histories, in the humour of some of the embellishments to the original version; vampire survival courses are outlined and recommended, with a Special Offer on ‘Attractive crucifix and mirror set’. But, for the most part, page design which invites close exploration and artwork with a macabre, comic-book feel, complement Stoker’s tale admirably.