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

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Review: Bugs in a Blanket

I'm so excited to review KBR's first children's book from Phaidon. A huge fan of this publishing company, you can imagine how pink my cheeks turned when I discovered the company's amazing catalogue of children's tomes.
My, there's some clever people in the world. Beatrice Alemagna is a multi-lingual, multi-talented Italian author/illustrator who really should sit under an umbrella title of extraordinary artist. Bugs in a Blanket is one of twenty quite extraordinary books she has created for kids - and this one - like many of her others, is a stunning multi-media blend.

Printed on thick, lustrous paper with rounded corners and created using fabric, wool, felting and photographic techniques, the book is so textural, children will not be able to resist touching the completely smooth pages, running their hands over visual bumps, touching their nose to the fuzzy illusion.

The book follows the tale of a community of bugs who live in an old blanket at the bottom of a garden. Even the opening page promises unbound narrative possibility - an old forgotten patchwork blanket? What fantastical microscopic worlds could potentially live within?

Well, in this case, it's that curious colony of bugs, each with their own little blanket hole to snuggle into. Told in the third person present tense, we learn that today is Little Fat Bug's birthday, and he's inviting all the other little bugs to his party. This will be the first time all the little bugs get to actually meet.

Excited, the charming little birthday bug busies himself with prepping for his party, making cakes, decorating his little bug hole, but when the doorbell finally rings, something strange happens. His bug neighbours look... different. Some are skinny, some are yellow, some have bug eyes ('scuse the pun), some have legs like sticks. Why are they all so different?

Sadly, a barrage of tetchy observations ensues, with each bug demanding to know why the other is fat, yellow, skinny or bug-eyed, and as it turns out, each bug just don't know why they are fat, yellow, skinny or bug-eyed. That's just the way they are. The way they were born. It's just them.

And therein lies the moral of the story, keenly presented at the ending - we can't choose the way we look - we are all born different. But of course, a little ol' clueless bug wouldn't know that. (Neither would many homo sapiens, it would seem - a genus supposedly deemed to be smarter than a bug.)

Intelligent, clever, beautiful, warm, moralistic without resorting to patronisation or schmaltz, Bugs in a Blanket is my first introduction to Alemagna. Like the children who will hopefully begin reading her work more in this country, and like that cute-infested blanket at the bottom of the garden, I'm already itching for more.

Title: Bugs in a Blanket
Author: Beatrice Alemagna
Illustrator: Beatrice Alemagna
Publisher: Phaidon $16.95 RRP
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9780714849706
For ages: 3-8
Type: Picture book