Friday, September 13, 2013

What If...? By Anthony Browne (Doubleday Children's Books)

What If...?

Written and Illustrated by
Anthony Browne

Published by Doubleday Children's Books

A new Anthony Browne book is always a treat. Browne is the sort of author-illustrator who knows exactly how to describe the feelings a child goes through in ordinary everyday life, then picture them allegorically in ways that children just "get".

Here we meet Joe, a young boy who is off to a schoolfriend's birthday party for the first time. Parents by now are knowingly nodding, recalling what it was like the first time they dropped their children off at such an event. Who was actually more stressed? You or your children? (in our case, probably me!)

Unfortunately Joe is a little muddle-headed and has lost the party invitation. He knows which road his friend lives in but doesn't know which house number!

In each page spread we see Joe and his mum looking at each house in turn, peeking through the windows for any signs of a party. The first house they come to seems to have a fairly ordinary old couple living in it, enjoying some quiet time in their lounge. But this is Anthony Browne we're talking about. Look closer, are they really as ordinary as they appear?

From then on it's a fantastic romp as we discover who is through each window - and see Browne's expertise at producing the most fantastic artwork, evocative of so many classic painters I love and have gradually introducte Charlotte to as well. There are nods to Magritte (as there usually are in Browne's lovely books) and even Brueghel. Scenes of surreality that don't exactly put Joe's mind at rest. What if the party is awful? What if no one talks to him?

This is a truly special book and does not disappoint. We really love Browne's dark works, this is perhaps not quite as dark and disturbing as Browne's books like "The Tunnel" but it's still a bit of a tweak on the nose for our innermost fears, addressing and dispelling them in turn.

If we had to choose which party we got an invite to, I think we'd go with the Snakes and Ladders one! It looks fun!

Charlotte's best bit: The bad boy's party (where one unfortunate individual ends up being squashed into a teapot!)

Daddy's Favourite bit: Browne's amazing Brueghel-esque Snakes and Ladders game. Surreal but oh-so brilliant!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Doubleday Children's Books)

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