Posts tagged ‘book of the month’

Book of the Month The Prince's Bedtime August 2013

With a new heir to the throne in England, how could we not choose The Prince’s Bedtime as our book of the month? Our prince was created by Joanne Oppenheim of New York City and Miriam Latimer of Braunton, North Devon. It was Miriam’s first project with us – I had spotted her in a ‘new graduates’ feature in Illustration magazine and I was enchanted by her quirky characters and her sense of humour. I also loved reading Joanne’s text out loud – the way it rollicks along and you know your audience will guess the final word of every couplet if you give them the chance.

I first read the story of Theseus and the Minotaur in an issue of the children’s weekly comic, ‘Look and Learn’. I must have been about eight years old. I was both fascinated and appalled by it – fascinated by the culture of ancient Crete and appalled by the behaviour of Theseus, who abandons Ariadne on the island of Naxos, having promised to take her back to Athens and make her his wife. I was also dismayed by Theseus’s  carelessness: when he sets sail from Athens to Crete, determined to kill the minotaur, his father Aegus asks him to have the ship’s black sails changed for white ones if he succeeds in his quest. Theseus forgets, so when his father, anxiously looking out for him, sees a black-sailed ship returning, he throws himself off the cliffs in despair. In ‘Look and Learn’, this scene was dramatically illustrated, with the figure of Aegeus, who gave his name to the Aegean Sea, tumbling to his death as the ship approaches the harbour.

If you download our Singalongs from Youtube, you will already know that the most popular one is Driving My Tractor, written and composed by Jan Dobbins. Farms may be far away from the everyday lives of many of us, but they retain a considerable allure for small children. I grew up in rural Yorkshire, with calves and sheep, chickens and piglets among my playmates, so I feel a certain nostalgic delight about this project, as well as a debt of gratitude to author and composer Jan Dobbins for having conjured up another compelling tune. I was dismayed last summer to read in the Daily Mail that most teenagers have no idea where butter comes from. As for bacon – a third don’t know it has anything to do with pigs and 3 percent think it comes from cows. You won’t be surprised to hear that many don’t know where eggs or milk come from either.

It’s over forty years since the summer of 1966, when the Red Guards stormed into the homes and lives of families across China, and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution gained an unstoppable momentum. For eight-year-old Guo Yue, one of a family of six children growing up in a traditional courtyard in the backstreets of Beijing, this was an unforgettable summer. The story of that summer is hauntingly retold by Yue and his wife, Clare Farrow, in his memoir, Little Leap Forward.