Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The General by Janet Charters and Michael Foreman (Templar Publishing)

The General (50th Anniversary Edition)

Written by Janet Charters

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

Published by Templar Publishing

Wow, now this is a real blast from the past - and a book that I was recently reminded about thanks to it featuring in the awesome "100 Greatest Children's Books" from Laurence King Publishing.

"The General" celebrated its 50th anniversary back in 2013 and this edition reprinted by Templar Publishing shows just how astonishing and groundbreaking this book was for the time, because re-reading it now as an adult - and re-reading it to my 7 year old daughter, it still feels as relevant and important now as it must've been back in the 60s.

The General - General Jodphur to be precise - is a thoroughly military gent. He runs his army with peerless efficiency and his soldiers are smartly dressed, extremely well trained and hugely disciplined. At night, the general settles down in his study to read about all the most famous generals in history and the campaigns they fought, dreaming that one day people will write books about him and his army too.

Glorious timeless illustrations in "The General"

While out riding, General Jodphur's horse is spooked by a fox as it dashes across their path and the poor General is knocked unceremoniously to the ground. When he hits the fresh sweet-scented grass, something quite amazing happens. The General is not injured but he does not want to get up. He stays there, lying amongst the flowers, soaking up the sheer beauty of the surrounding countryside and woodland.

That night the general can barely sleep, his dreams are troubled by visions of a marching army crushing the wildlife and plant life before them, trampling the wonderful landscape flat. General Jodphur makes a decision - the land must change, and he will be the man to instigate the change. The army will be sent home, sent back to become farmers and fishermen, builders and family men and the army base will be transformed into the most wonderful city with lush green spaces and lots to do. The General's new campaign is not to conquer, but to turn his country into the most beautiful country on earth.

The army become fishermen and farmers once more...wonderful!

As the story continues, General Jodphur's vision slowly comes to pass - but what will happen when generals from the east and west respectively come to see the results of Jodphur's hard work?

Janet and Michael drew up an amazing and empowering story that was 50 years ahead of its time, put together at a time when the cold war still raged, and when at one point it seemed that the world would be plunged into another war as events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis began to unfold. It's still astonishingly relevant (at times, sadly so) but children today can wholly identify with the book's solid and wondrous messages promoting ecological values and world peace (and in Charlotte's case, wish as hard as possible that the world could eventually end up like The General's world!)

If you've never encountered this book before, and often wonder if "old books" can still light up your child's imagination like a bright beacon, you owe it to yourself and your kids to seek out "The General" - it's a truly inspirational and hugely influential children's classic in every sense of the word.

Charlotte's best bit: General Jodphur's amazing city, picked out in all the colours of the rainbow

Daddy's Favourite bit: As relevant, important and packed with wonder today as it must've been 50 years ago. A truly stunning book!

(Kindly sent to us for review by the utterly awesome Stephanie at Templar Publishing)