Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Five of Us by Quentin Blake (Tate Publishing)

The Five of Us

Written and Illustrated by
Quentin Blake

Published by Tate Publishing

Any new project involving Sir Quentin Blake is a cause for great excitement at ReadItDaddy Towers. When it's a new QB story book, we're ecstatic. When it's a new QB story book that celebrates diversity we sit up and pay very close attention indeed.

Quentin Blake is such a fantastic storyteller in his own right that we love seeing what happens when he truly goes to town with a story, writing and illustrating with fantastic expertise and seemingly consummate ease. "The Five of Us" is something truly special though, introducing us to five child heroes who aren't your ordinary everyday run of the mill kids.

There's Angie, who can spot things from miles away with her super-keen eyesight. There's Ollie who is blessed with hypersensitive hearing. There's Simona and Mario, who are both strong and wise and then there's Eric who is...well in the words of the great man himself, we'll get to Eric in a moment.

As soon as you see the book cover, you'll understand that the aim of the book is not just to tell a fantastic tale of believing in yourself, your own abilities and believing that you're truly special in a multitude of ways - but also to celebrate our rich and diverse culture and the children we nurture and influence.

"The Five" are out on a special outing, a picnic in the wilds which heralds the start of an adventure! Hopping into the coach with their adult helper, they soon find themselves in a gorgeous spot perfect for scoffing their sandwiches in.

When their adult helper becomes ill and faints, it's up to the five to use their amazing abilities to team up, work together and help their friend to safety.

The characters in the story are vitally important, for Angie, Ollie, Simona, Mario and Eric are characters that our own children will already known and identify with but characters that don't appear enough in children's stories. Ethnic minorities, disabilities and speech impediments are subtly included, "Five" are everyday kids but wholly unusual to find in high profile picture books and though huge strides have been made in the last few years to make children's books more inclusive and diverse, there's still an awful lot of work to do.

To see such a huge figure in children's stories ably recognising and acknowledging this is extremely encouraging though, so "The Five of Us" deserves kudos as does Sir Quentin for so perfectly capturing the essence of what makes kids so imaginative, brilliant and brave whatever their background or ability.

Back to Eric. We love Eric. Eric is a hero! Eric is the sort of character we are instantly drawn to in children's stories, who struggles against adversity and eventually proves pivotal and vital as the story unfolds. It was all we could do to stifle a huge "Hooray" at the end of the book as the heroic 5 save the day.

"The Five of Us" is out today, September 4th, From Tate Publishing

Charlotte's best bit: Charlotte thought Angie was the coolest by far but really did have a soft spot for Eric too (as did I)

Daddy's Favourite bit: A fantastic story, quite tense and fraught in places but such a high to end on. Brill stuff from a master of children's stories, bringing his expertise to bear on this hugely important book.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Tate Publishing)