Mr Filkins is walking across the desert to visit his family. He has his walking stick, his umbrella and cream cheese sandwiches – necessary for the journey – and most importantly a small amount of sparkling water in a bottle. The journey will not be easy; there are strange monstrous beings to avoid; the worst, of course, the Zagobert with its seven legs. But what will happen when Mr Filkins does meet a Zagobert…?
This has all the energy, imagination and humour that are such features of any picture book by Quentin Blake. Mr Filkins steps off the page as he marches resolutely across the desert. The monsters – extraordinary in their depiction, as extraordinary as their names – are the sorts of monsters a child could imagine, all legs, spikes and teeth. But even monsters might need help. And Mr Filkins, a true fairy tale hero, responds, offering his life-saving water – and is rewarded with friendship; a fable for our times, perhaps. Quentin Blake has had a long career and here his figures are as assured and as full of life as ever. Mr Filkins joins other creations by Blake – Mrs Armitage, Angelica Sprocket, Patrick and Mr Magnolia – as a real character. The desert is a real desert full of rocks, sand and spiky plants, the Zagobert, from being an alien creature of nightmare, becomes a joyous companion and the birthday party at the end is as inclusive and enjoyable as such a party – Mr Filkins 90th birthday – should be; all conveyed through Blake’s dynamic pen and ink lines and watercolour wash. This is picture book that demands to be shared, a gift for the storyteller and for its audience bringing to a traditional narrative creativity and imagination.