Tuesday 26 April 2016

Footpath Flowers by JoArno Lawson and Sydney Smith (Walker Books)

There are some books that stick out a mile when you're browsing the shelves of your local book store, begging to be picked up. This is just such a book!
"Footpath Flowers" by JoArno Lawson and Sydney Smith is a wordless picture book, in fact it's closer to a graphic novel than the usual traditional children's picture book layouts you'd expect - and it sets out its table early on with the most fantastically delicious inky-black and white art with important touches of colour.

We'll come back to those splashes of colour in a bit but the story focuses on an urban journey. A little girl and her father are making their way across town. While Dad is doing what dads usually do (stressing about going the wrong way, constantly on their phones, looking hassled and worried) the little girl discovers beauty in the ordinary everyday world. Nestling in the cracks in the sidewalk or sprouting from loose mortar in the walls, the girl spies flowers and delightedly picks them.

(Pausing for a moment to wonder at the book's slightly dubious stance on picking wild flowers - tsk!) The girl continues on her walk but rather than keeping the flowers to herself she chooses to deposit them lovingly where a splash of colour is needed.

As the two make their way home, the girl spies a poor bird lying dead in the park (and deposits a lovely posey of flowers to mark its passing). She tucks flowers into the collar of a lovely dog who stops to shake a paw with her. But when she gets home, she saves the best till last, weaving the most beautiful flowers into her mother's stunning red hair (Charlotte loved the fact that the mum in the book is a beautiful stunning redhead just like her own mum!)

As the story unfolds and the girl leaves her flowery mark on the grey urban sprawl, the story itself takes on more colour gently, page by page. It's a lovely touch that adds to the already truly impressive artwork in this gorgeous book.

We love wordless picture books, because they let you find your own way through the story, interpret things in your own way, find messages and undercurrents that may be yours and yours alone. This is a fantastic book and I'd dearly love to see more like it.

Charlotte's favourite bit: The little girl sombrely marking the death of a tiny little bird in the park with a lovely bunch of flowers

Daddy's favourite bit: I completely fell in love with the story and the artwork, it feels like living breathing street art with a deep soul full of joy and a rather beautiful core message about the way children can find beauty and colour in our grey old world, sometimes simply by walking around it. Fabulous fabulous book!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Walker Books)

"Footpath Flowers"

Written by JoArno Lawson

Illustrated by Sydney Smith

Published by Walker Books

Publication Date: 5th May 2016