Happy National Poetry Day!

Here in the UK, it’s National Poetry Day (that sort of rhymes, doesn’t it?). As such, Holly and I thought we would do a special post in honour of the occasion.

Recently we were very lucky to receive a package of books from Red Fox, an imprint of Random House publishers. The books in question were a trio of Quentin Blake’s works: Jack and Nancy, Quentin Blake’s ABC, and Nursery Rhyme Book. The latter two are written in rhyme so fit today’s theme perfectly.

A trio of Quentin Blake Books!

The books have been reprinted recently to celebrate Quentin Blake’s 80th birthday this autumn. We were delighted to read these as we are big fans of Mr Blake’s unique style of drawing, having first come to him from Roald Dahl’s stories. However, Blake also is an adept writer in his own right, as the contents of these books show.
In Quentin Blake’s ABC, he takes the reader through the alphabet in rhyming couplets, by covering two letters on each double-page spread:

Holly and I tried to guess what was inside the parcel. Her thoughts were much more imaginative that mine – a Mummy from Egypt was her answer. Mine was a cleverly wrapped upright vacuum cleaner. I thought the clues were in the fact that (a) a mum is opening it and (b) she is surrounded by housework. Maybe I am just cynical!

Crafty kittens

We also liked the page on kittens – this is a frequent occurrence in our house. The leg-waving on the next page is not so common, as none of us are talented in the old head-standing technique. It looks a lot of fun, though!
Moving on to Nursery Rhyme Book, I was pleased to see that Blake had chosen some of the less-well-known rhymes to include in his small anthology, such as “Jack Spratt”, “Dickery Dickery Dare” and “Gregory Griggs” and his 27 wigs. Holly and I had a laugh at that one, and discussed which wig we were most likely to wear.

Holly rather liked the long, flowing red one, whereas I fancied the nautical-themed ship wig.

I also laughed a lot at Goosey, Goosey Gander and Little Betsy Baker (with incredibly thin pigtails) being shaken – very realistic in this picture:

Shaken, not stirred

Finally, we looked at Jack and Nancy, which was Blake’s second published picture book. This story is all about the protagonists names in the title – Jack and Nancy – who live a very happy and comfortable life in a cottage by the sea but long for the sort of adventures the visiting sailors tell them about. One day, their wish is granted, as a violent storm whips them up by the handle of their umbrella and transports them to an island full of parrots.

Dramatic storms in Jack and Nancy – I loved the deep, rich swirls of the clouds against the scratchy illustrations.

Life on the island sounds like a Biblical paradise, with fresh fruit to eat and water to drink, and swimming naked in the sea with the fishes.

Swimming in the nuddy.

However, despite living in their very own Garden of Eden, Jack and Nancy soon realise that it’s home where they are happiest. The trouble is, with no ships in sight for days, will they ever get back?

Holly’s review:

These books were sent free to us from some publishers. Now, these books are being reprinted and we were the first to get a copy*.  They are excellent books and I know because I have read them all. They are for all ages, well apart from the ABC book. I like these books because they are funny. Why? Because of the drawing and the writing. They are all funny. I also like them because of the imagination in them. They can be adventurous not just because of the story but because of the words and rhymes and letters. If you want to read these books look in your local library or online.

* [NB from Sam: we were sent these just before official publication date of 27 September 2012.]

Disclaimer: Although we were given these books by the publisher, the reviews and thoughts are our own.



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