Design is an important, and often undervalued, element of picturebook making, and design can sometimes be overdone. Not with Troll Swap though. Between them, Leigh Hodgkinson and Nosy Crow have come up with a wonderfully well-presented and imagined offering.
The idea is very simple and well-worked: one’s given role in life is often best but it takes time to discover this. Troll, Timothy Limpet, and girl, Tabitha Lumpit, don’t fit in their allotted roles. Trolls are meant to be mucky and scary and noisy – aren’t they? And, of course, little girls should be polite and tidy and quiet. But Tabitha and Timothy are the opposite to these expectations. Conforming to their stereotypes is not easy for either of them; Tabitha’s mummy and daddy want a nice, polite and tidy little girl, and Timothy can’t manage to be disgusting and bad mannered like the other trolls. A role swap allows each to be as they want to be without feeling bad about it. But life is boring and conforming doesn’t make either Tabitha or Timothy feel special any more. So, predictably enough, they revert, to the relief of their families, who also found the conformists a bit dull.
Hodgkinson’s faux-simple images are a delight; each character is invested with character and every page opening creates an air of expectation. Layout is never predictable: everything is utilised – the deadpan text is physically incorporated into the visual story and colour is quite muted, allowing the reader to see as well as to read/hear the story.