A Squash and a Squeeze

Not just the book I’ll be talking about, but time over here: a squash and a squeeze!  Believe me, no one could be more disapproving of my delinquent status as a book enthusiast than I am over here– unless it be my cat, peering at me from under my hat stand.  See Penelope there?  “I waited all those years, patient and virtuous, for my husband to return from Troy, and you can’t write about a picture book?”

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Ah, Penny.  Always so reassuring.  Here’s the story: I’ve had a feverish child on my hands since Friday.  In fact, I’ll be having the Changeling home with me every Friday from now on, so that will require some juggling in terms of blogging schedule, anyway, but this week was something else!  I had a cold, my husband had an ear infection, then my daughter had a fever.  I blame the hot weather, myself.  ’tain’t nat’ral, ‘s what I say.  In any case, I hope that’s the end of it and we’ll be back to something resembling normalcy soon.

In the meantime, a super-mini review of another one of the Changeling’s birthday presents: A Squash and a Squeeze, by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

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How old is the story in this book?  I feel like I ought to know, but, being honest with you, I don’t.  I grew up with it as a Jewish legend, but I learned since then that there’s a variant for almost every culture out there: someone feels crowded in a tiny house, and goes to the wise man in the village.  He tells the person to bring in a farm animal, and that repeats itself until the house is completely full to bursting with animals and people.  Then the wise man says, “Take them all out,” and the person realizes how much room there was to begin with, and is thankful for what there is.

I’m going to admit that I never had much affection for this story growing up– maybe the version I heard was too preachy.  Maybe I thought it was too hard on the animals.  I don’t know, but I preferred reading up on the variants of Cinderella (somewhere my mother is muttering to herself: “I know you did, Deborah!!!“).  I wish I’d known this version, though.  With a perfect bouncy rhythm for lap reading and illustrations which make my daughter giggle on every page, this takes a potentially moralizing tale and brings out all the funny elements.

One last, quick note before I try to scavenge my house from under fever-related paraphernalia: We’re huge fans of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler over here.  Oddly enough, we first encountered them in Welsh: the Welsh translation of The Gruffalo (Y Gryffalo) is excellent, by the way.  Then we got Room on the Broom for Hallowe’en (I’m sure I’ll talk about that in October).  The partnership is obviously wonderful and successful and doesn’t need my endorsement, even though this is the season for endorsements, but here are my thoughts as to what makes the pairing of art and text work so well together:

Bounce.

The text bounces beautifully– all you need for proof of that is to read a page aloud, so I won’t belabour the point.  As for the art, just look at a page, almost any page!  Axel Scheffler has an almost George Cruikshank-esque knack for vigour on the page.  I don’t mean to suggest a stylistic influence from: Cruikshank the umbrella.jpg

to:

scheffler.jpg

All I want to note is the energy of the lines, the sense of motion barely stilled for a moment on the page.  It perfectly matches Julia Donaldson’s energetic text, which makes for a perfect pairing between the two.

Now, for the blog: certainly expect me back in full form later this week.  I’ve been contemplating a move to Tuesday-Thursday, just writing twice a week, to give myself a more spaced out schedule and more time for, you know, my dissertation, but you’ll find out what I decide on that front sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, I hope your time is less of a squash and a squeeze than it’s been over here!

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