'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Review: The Tomorrow Book

I was quite literally gagging to read this book and so couldn’t wait for a review copy. I hotfooted it to Borders and came home with my lovely hardcover treasure.

Not only do I love Jackie French’s work, I’m also a bit of a fan of the person herself. I know she has a great respect for nature and I’m delighted to see her cover the theme of conservation in this beautiful book.

So where do I start?
Let’s take the cover. Scrumptious! Absolutely timelessly beautiful illustrations by the über talented Sue Degannaro give us a matt cream cover with gorgeously designed typesetting.

It would have been lovely to have detailed endpapers, but I’m being picky here.

I love the preface on the first page: a story of ideas and hope, which pretty much sums up the purpose of this book. Then inside, we begin the journey through absolutely delightful illustrations which have been designed to mimic the whimsically retro stylings of such greats as M Sasek, Eloise illustrator and Maurice Sendak. What a blend. Yum.

I love the use of softly faded colour, the sweet, smile-inducing characters, the curved bookcases and windows, the stacks of items that defy gravity à la Dr Seuss. I also love the way the text is snipped from paper and pasted onto the page like someone has opened their diary.

And the story? Timely, apt eco facts are melted down into a truffle then rolled around in storytelling coconut to create a children’s narrative sensation.

When the little prince, who spends his life cloistered inside a palace and a library of books, realises the real world outside his window is nothing like the lands portrayed in books, he asks his butler why. When the butler replies along the lines of ‘that’s just real life’, the little prince thinks real life is in for some improving. When his royal parents trundle off for the weekend in their royal campervan, the little prince welcomes visitors from his neighbourhood to the palace – a band of kids begging for help.

Their vegie patches are dying and they have barely enough water to take a bath. They also need better and cleaner ways to get around than cars, and ideas for re-using old stuff. Can the little prince help the kids and discover better ways to make our land safe and clean for people, for animals, for plants and trees?

The eco messages in this book are imparted in that lovely subtle way French does so well, and the central idea that children are inheriting the responsibility for tomorrow rings clear and true. But the message is inspiring, promising, and I must say – fun.

Author’s and illustrator's notes at the back of the book let us know the manuscript was written on a solar powered computer while eating scones from a solar powered oven, and the illustrations were all created from recycled materials including matchboxes, envelopes and teabags. A fine endorsement indeed and a nice way to finish a book that will not only inspire children, but provide the perfect morsel for teachers to centre the perfect eco lesson plans on.

Gorgeous. Important.

Title: The Tomorrow Book
Author: Jackie French
Illustrator: Sue DeGennaro
Publisher: HarperCollins, $24.99
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780732289393
For ages: 4-10
Type: Picture Book