Sensible George is courting Silly Jess in the land of traditional tales. While visiting the family, he witnesses his beloved and her parents dissolving into hysterical grief as they contemplate what might happen if a hammer hanging from a nail in the cellar were to fall off one day and kill the child Jess may have had by then. George decides to suspend the relationship while he sets off into the world to discover if there are any even sillier people out there. Needless to say, he finds them.
Tony Ross depicts the idiots and idiocies of this story through his inimitably nimble use of squirmy and angular line, making characters gawp, gurn, wriggle and cut capers. The use of a large, distressed typescript, with plenty of big block capitals to shout aloud the stupidity of the proceedings, eases accessibility to the text as a read-aloud and read-together resource. I was rather disappointed that George is allowed to meet with only two episodes of greater silliness before returning to marry Jess; three is almost statutory in folklore. There might also have been more extravagant nonsense in the text to match that of the pictures – some older versions venture into the hilariously macabre – but this remains a highly enjoyable retelling of one our greatest folk tales.