Friday, 29 November 2019

ReadItDaddy's Final Picture Book of the Week for 2019: "The Tunnel" by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

Our final Picture Book of the Year may not be something that was published this year (in fact it was published for the first time almost 30 years ago! Wow!), but it's a book that we were prompted to re-buy recently after being completely hypnotised by it in a bookshop.

"The Tunnel" by Anthony Browne is one of those 'dark' children's books you always hear about, you know, the ones the industry seems to have taken a pass on in recent years. Yet here is the perfect modern fairy tale, every bit as edgy and faintly menacing as classic tales from Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm - but with a contemporary look and feel which - even after 30 years - still feels timely and relevant.

Once upon a time a brother and sister lived a fairly happy and ordinary life. Like most siblings, they were prone to fighting and arguing with each other, with either one annoying or playing pranks on their sibling.

When their mother eventually tires of their bickering, she sends them out to play - and the mischievous brother finds a strange tunnel, and can't resist exploring it.

The sister is left all on her own, and when the brother doesn't reappear, she confronts her own fear head on, and crawls into the tunnel after him. What she finds on the other side is an unexpected, magical and thoroughly menacing new land that seems to have sprung to life from her own fairytale-obsessed imagination.

So many hidden images tucked into Anthony's amazing paintings. See what you can spot!
The story maintains an air of making the reader and the main character thoroughly uncomfortable, at times you're convinced you're being watched as well as the poor sister in the story. With good reason, as the illustrations feature all manner of mystical shapes, beastly and menacing, ready to eat you all up!

When the sister finally finds her missing brother there's a chilling shock in store - one we're desperate not to spoil for you, suffice to say beware when checking this book out on Amazon as one of the images has a whomping great big spoiler in it!

If you've never encountered any of Anthony Browne's books before, they're all fantastic - every single one of them, the man is incapable of writing / illustrating duff books, and this is probably our favourite of all of his brilliant 'hidden image' books (we're also huge fans of his brilliant Chimpanzee books featuring hapless hero Willy).

If you want to see what folk really mean when they talk about dark children's books, here's one of the finest examples, still as good on a re-read as it was when we first got it out of the Library many, many years ago. Thoroughly recommended!

Sum this book up in a sentence: A dark and delicious modern fairy tale wrought with Browne's expert eye for playing on your visual sense as you read through this superb story.

"The Tunnel" by Anthony Browne is out now, published by Walker Books (self purchased - not supplied for review).