Saturday 11 August 2012

Starstruck - Katie and the Starry Night, by James Mayhew

reviewed by Saviour Pirotta

James Mayhew's ground-breaking series about Katie, the young girl who has the magical ability to climb into paintings, started in 1989 with Katie's Picture Show.  Since then there have been eleven books in the series, including a special Jubilee edition of Katie in London earlier this year.   Katie and the Starry Night is the twelfth title, and a dreamy addition to Katie's artistic escapades.

In the best picture book tradition, the plot is deceptively simple, yet igenious.  Katie visits an art gallery with her nan to see some Van Gogh masterpieces.  One of them is The Starry Night.  Katie is so taken by the twinkling constellations, she can't help reaching into the frame to pocket one of them.  Stars, of course, have a habit of shooting across the sky and, before she knows it, Katie has to enlist the help of characters from other paintings to restore harmony to the starry night. All before nan wakes up from a nap and the guard returns!

As all Katie fans know, paintings are doorways to adventure and the five works in this book provide vibrant backdrops to Katie's newest exploits. Mayhew's reworking of Van Gogh comes alive on the page.  The sunshine reflecting off the field in Noon, is so bright, the sky so blue, you can almost hear the cicadas in the hay. When you turn the pages to see the waves in Fishing Boats on the Beach, you want to dive right in to cool down.

What makes Katie's series so wonderful is that it works on two levels.  The stories are entertaining and beg to be read over and over again.  And then there's the second, educational, layer that introduces children to the world of visual arts. There's much to look at and talk about on every page, and helpful notes on the last page point you in the way of more discovery.  The ending, makes this the perfect story for bedtime too.  Mayhew has come with another little masterpiece of his own.

KATIE AND THE STARRY NIGHT is published by Orchard Books. James will be promoting it and the Katie series at the Edinburgh Festival and other venues around the UK. Visit for more details.   I interviewed James over at about his book.  Click here to read it.   



Penny Dolan said...

Can almost see James Mayhew's wonderful colours in this delightful post.

Saviour Pirotta said...

Thanks, Penny. It's a delightful book and one I am going to recommend in schools.

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