Jonathan and Martha bears all the hallmark features of award winning Czech author/illustrator Petr Horacek’s earlier books – a carefully designed combination of collage, background and simple narrative. The book started life when Horacek saw a child’s painting of a juicy red apple – he wondered what might happen inside a fruit. The outcome is an elegant, humorous book considering the value of friendship and sharing.
It tells the story of two lonely worms who meet when they eat through a juicy pear from opposite sides. They don’t much like each other, but a resulting fight ironically leaves them so tangled that they have no choice but to face life co-joined. Then one day a huge bird pecks off their tails and they separate, only to find that they no longer want to live without each other.
In addition to the collage and the vibrant colour, one of the striking aspects of this book is its clever use of framing and space to control the pace of the narrative. At the beginning, the story is told from opposing perspectives across a double page spread as the worms reflect on their loneliness. Elsewhere, the story is given pace by the use of several frames on each spread. Holes in the page (and this is not the only Eric Carle tribute) lead the reader forward and provoke curiosity. Image and narrative work in perfect partnership in this delightful book, which is thoroughly recommended for young children and early readers.