The Dormouse, The Creature in the Jungle, and The Elf’s New Clothes
By John Crawford and Paula Bowes
Vocal Minority, €6.99
I have a great deal of sympathy for first-time picture book writers. How to make an impression in a world saturated by Julia Donaldson? The difficulties must be redoubled for the self-published author. Vocal Minority are a husband and wife team, John Crawford and Paula Bowes, who have just published 3 picture books for children, The Dormouse, The Creature in the Jungle, and The Elf’s New Clothes. The Dormouse is a sweet moral fable about a dormouse who is too fat to fit into his burrow for hibernation. In The Creature in the Jungle, a group of animals marvel at the discovery of a naked boy in the foliage. In The Elf’s New Clothes, an elf kits himself out for winter.
The books are very attractive. The board book format is sturdy, with thick pages that are a good weight for young hands. The illustrations are detailed watercolours with a pale palette that recalls Romantic fairytale prints. The rhymes and rhythm recall a Limerick-type form and they fairly skip along, but the stories are bit old-fashioned. The vocabulary, meanwhile, is quite sophisticated. I fully support challenging children but the stumbling block for me came with reading it aloud.
There is a lovely website, www.vocalminority.ie, which gives a full impression of Crawford and Bowes picture-book world, and where you can view samples before buying direct from the company. It is worth checking out if you are tired of looking at the same titles in your local bookshop.