Thursday, 5 September 2013

Barbapapa by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor (Orchard Books)


Written by Annette Tison

Illustrated by Talus Taylor

Published by Orchard Books

Wow, what a trip down memory lane. I'm almost ashamed to admit I'd entirely forgotten about Barbapapa, or should I say I'd misplaced memories I had of the original books and the TV series which were around when I was a kid. Barbapapa was always one of those "after school" cartoons that was just the right side of surreal and whacky to be a great distraction from homework or whatever the school day had thrown at me.

So when two Barbapapa books came through our letterbox, and I'd seen excited tweets about them, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Charlotte. You see, previous forays into nostalgic and excited showings of stuff I'd loved as a kid haven't always gone well. Pigeon Street was a huge success (note to publishers, get in on that action!) - yet "The Herbs" sank like a lead balloon. As for Issi Noho, the very mention of keeping a Panda in a wooden crate for long-distance travel was met with shocked silence.

Charlotte instantly wanted to find out more about Barbapapa as soon as she saw Orchard's reprinted covers. Diving in, we learned all about Barbapapa's origins, how he sprang from the ground in young Francoise's back garden one day, and became the talk of the town.

Francoise's parents obviously couldn't find house room for a huge, yet rather cute pink blob so poor Barbapapa is shipped off to the zoo. It's there that he realises he can change shape, mould his body into any form possible - including a skinny creature that can easily escape through the bars of a zoo cage.

Barbapapa soon finds that other animals don't understand him, and that the zoo isn't exactly chuffed that he can escape so easily, so the poor thing wanders the streets with nowhere to go, nowhere to call home.

But shape-changing creatures with a stout brave heart soon find opportunities to turn things around.

We'll leave you to discover the rest of the story.

Charlotte has demanded these books on a daily basis since we got them (we also received "Barbapapa's Voyage" which we'll review very soon too!). I rather unkindly referred to the current trend for reviving old stories, books and characters as "Bracking" (Book Fracking) but some characters are so timelessly appealing that they're as big a hit with our children as they were with us.

A brilliant and timely revival of a character I'd almost forgotten, but now we're reacquainted I realise just how brill an idea Barbapapa was.

(HiT, please resist the temptation to remake the TV show featuring Barbapapa as a CGI 'down wid da kidz' backward-basedball-cap wearing dude though, I beg you!)

Charlotte's best bit: Barbapapa expertly emulating other animals in the zoo

Daddy's Favourite bit: Proof positive that some characters we loved in our childhood can be successfully revamped and passed down to our children to fall in love with too. Wonderful!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Orchard Books)