Sunday 19 August 2012
'This Book Belongs To Aye-Aye' by Richard Byrne, reveiwed by Pippa Goodhart
Richard Byrne is a new picture book author/illustrator, and he has produced a book that is an excellent comically visual story, presented with some fresh design ideas.
I love the idea of an Academy For Aspiring Picture Book Animals! And that's the school that little Aye-Aye is attending. Odd looking Aye-Aye longs to be in a picture book, but that seems unlikely when the cute rabbit twins instantly pick on him at school, thinking he's 'far too funny-looking' to ever get into a book. There's a school competition to find the most 'helpful' animal in the class. Aye-Aye does his best, but as soon as he succeeds in being helpful he finds that the competition on the board now reads that it is for the most 'creative' animal. So he tries again, and again as the competition changes several times. The handwriting of the changed words suggests a child might be making the changes rather than Miss Deer, but it is never made explicit who might be doing the cheating ... although the final version that states that the prize is for the 'cutest, fluffiest, twinniest bunnies' does rather give the game away! The twins get their come-uppance, and Aye-Aye wins a big cup, but that's not what he'd really wanted. He achieves the prize he really wants in a very satisfying way that you'll have to read the book to discover.
My one gripe with the story is that the competition didn't start off with something relevant to the professed aim of the school; to prepare animals for picture books. There was potential to explore the picture book theme more. But that's perhaps too adult a view of what is a very satisfying story of the triumphing of the underdog (or underAye-Aye).
The pictures are rich in comic detail. The little duck, squirrel, mouse and frog friends of Aye-Aye are real characters. I love, for example, a picture of tadpoles on the wall, with the label 'my brothers by Frog'!
But there is richness too in the use of the endpapers. Here we find interesting information about real aye-ayes in Madagascar. And we also learn how to make a paper hat out of a newspaper. So you get your money's worth!
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