The Quest of the Golden Handshake ¦ Moonquake ¦ The Incompetent Dragon
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On the cover of this issue we feature a selection of illustrations from the Walker Books List. Can you identify the artists? (Answers below). We are grateful for the help from Walker Books in using this material.
1. Helen Oxenbury (First Picture Books).
2. Shirley Hughes (Nursery Collection).
3. John Burningham (First Words).
4. Patrick Benson (William Mayne's Hob Stories).
5. Kenneth Lilly (Large as Life).
6. Nicola Bayley (Copycats).
7. Philippe Dupasquier (Little Robert).
8. E. J. Taylor (Biscuits, Buttons and Pickles).
9. Jan Ormerod (Baby Books).
10. Colin McNaughton (Allan Ahlberg's Red Nose Readers).
11. Helen Craig (Susie and Alfred).
12. Peter Cross (David Lloyd's Dinosaur Days).
Titles are of the series, not individual books.
The Quest of the Golden Handshake
The Incompetent Dragon
Illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier
Three contrasting picture books for seven to elevens. Ryan's Pugwash adventure is teeming with the derring-do that readers and T.V. viewers of the sea captain's other adventures will be familiar with. Here, he sets off with his motley crew on the Black Pig to capture 'Ye golden Treasure of the Stinkas'. Parody and word-play abound: the strip cartoon format speeds the story along well. My hunch is that it's best read collaboratively: it took three nine year olds a full reading lesson to get all the jokes and the nuances of character and location. Cut Throat Jake was their favourite. Dialogue like Ryan's ("Whew! That was a bit of a how-de-do, Cap'n") needs to spoken and savoured. I'll try them on Treasure Island next term.
In Moonquake, there's travel of a more contemporary nature when a group of Space Cadets get involved in a crisis whilst on a training 'exercise'. The pictures are effective, but even my group of eight to ten year old sci-fi addicts found the text dry and over-technical in places, though there's a nifty climax.
My favourite here is Ms Elliott's warm and witty tale about Christopher Magnifico's befriending of a dragon who transforms a dreary world into a cheery, loving place. The land and seascapes of the story are created in an enchanting way by Dupasquier. See how picture-book artistry can work well for this age group when the elements of the tale are 'shown' on the first full-page spread. There's poetry and fun in the writing, too: '... ever since St. George gave us a bad name it's not been the same for dragons'. Do try this one.