Friday, 26 April 2013

Big Top Benn by David McKee (Tate Publishing Ltd)

After our circus-themed book of the week, let's stay with circuses for the moment with a look at Big Top Benn.

David McKee's timeless bowler-hatted hero has been around for well over 40 years now - and this book was first published when Mr Benn was the preferred teatime viewing for me, as I wolfed down marmite sandwiches and drank nesquick as a kid.

Introducing Charlotte to 'old telly' is always quite amusing. Some she's entranced by, some she doesn't quite get but in the case of Mr Benn here's a character that felt familiar to her, mainly because we've loved so many of David McKee's other books anyway - so she knew the art style, and knew the sort of antics Mr Benn would get up to even before I showed her clips from the show on YouTube.

In this tale, Mr Benn wakes up on a noisy summer's morning wondering where the little costume shop on the corner of Festive Road will take him. He feels light hearted and wants something fun but still full of adventure.

The fez-wearing shop owner (who made Fezzes cool way before the 11th Doctor did!) shows Mr Benn a costume that's too big, with huge floppy shoes and a rather battered hat. It's only when the shop owner hands over a bright red nose that Mr Benn understands. Today's adventure will let him be a clown in a circus, hooray!

Setting off in a rather strange car waiting just the other side of the dressing room door, Mr Benn soon finds the other members of the circus running into all sorts of difficulties before they reach the next town. With the aid of a friend from a previous adventure, the rather scary looking Smasher, Mr Benn soon gets the circus on its way again - but can he do a brilliant turn as a clown for the final show?

You'll have to read the book to find out. McKee's trademark colours and brilliant characters are all in the book, and there's some great black-and-white linework too. I still think Mr Benn is one of those children's characters that has appeal right down the generations. A great book and a brilliant trip down memory lane.

Charlotte's best bit: The wonderful trapeze artists, so delicate and lithe

Daddy's favourite bit: The Shopkeeper's brilliant turn as a magician. Pif, Paf, Pouf!