Sunday, 7 June 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 35: The Books of Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

Casting eyes back across the blog over the years, I'm always surprised by how 'soon' C developed a taste in darker picture books. I feel like I may have egged her on a bit, probably to the complete exasperation of my wife who always thought that darker books would give C nightmares.

Yet quite the opposite happened and I think even though there was a period of time when she wouldn't sleep and wouldn't settle (all parents must go through this, it's almost a rites of passage), it was never because of books - dark or otherwise.

Anthony Browne belongs in our #Booky100Keepers list for obvious reasons. His books are perfect, his books are extremely beautiful. His books are extremely clever and he's one of those creatives who seemingly gets away with turning the whole UK children's picture book 'rule model' on its head (thank goodness).

The first Anthony Browne book we borrowed from the Library (then later bought) was "The Tunnel" - oft billed as a surreal and dark depiction of the often stormy relationship between siblings, but to us a tale that instantly feels like it could've been swiped from the legendary luminaries of dark fairy tales, the likes of The Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson.

But Anthony might allude to classic tales like those, but works his own original stories up from a relatively simple idea (the thought of a brother and sister needling each other) and turns it into a dark fantastical journey through those bits of our imagination that prissy ne'er do wells would probably like us to keep under wraps.

Anthony Browne's illustrations are amazing pieces of art.

Each and every time we read one of his books, even the fantastic "Willy" series, we spot little details, in-jokes, pop culture references, hidden objects, mysterious shadows and shapes that aren't always apparent on a first read through, but are noticed later on (AB even makes a point of turning some of his books into a bit of a 'spot the object' game - a mechanism that elicits absolute delight in young readers as they pick their way through each story).

In later years we've gone back to these books as a means of noting all the places where AB pays due homage to classic artists, classic movies, or just cleverly works in brilliant nods to diversity and LGBT, ensuring his books are universally loved and revered by the widest possible audience.

Even when he's writing and illustrating an "Issues" book (such as the truly brilliant "What If"), he manages to do so without turning the theme into a boring 'grown-up' finger wagging lecture about how to cope with anxiety, worry or shyness.

Instead he sets out to create an entertaining story first before deftly weaving the story's moral into the mix.

We've read an awful lot of his books (not every single one but I'd dearly love to catch up with them all one day and even C still loves finding new ones from time to time, ones we haven't read before whenever we take a trip to the library or our local book stores) and he is, without doubt, one of the most important creative talents we've come across in the ten years of this blog.

You really just cannot go wrong with any of his books, they're all equally brilliant but we'll always have a soft (dark) spot for "The Tunnel" above all others.

Original Review Links (this is going to be quite a list!)

The Tunnel (original review)

Revisiting "The Tunnel" by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

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

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

King Kong by Anthony Browne, Adapted from the story by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper (Picture Corgi)

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 2nd May 2014 - "Me and You" By Anthony Browne (Picture Corgi)

Booky Advent Calendar Day 13: "Willy and the Cloud" by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 13th October 2017 - "Hide and Seek" by Anthony Browne (Picture Corgi)

Into the Forest by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

Knock Knock, Who's there? By Sally Grindley and Anthony Browne (Picture Puffin)

Through the Magic Mirror by Anthony Browne (Walker Books)

Willy the Dreamer

Ten things we'd like to see dads doing in "Dad Picture Books" for Father's Day - A ReadItTorial


Bear Hunt


Willy and Hugh

Willy the Champ