Review of small press and independent books.
You are not logged in.
Julia Donaldson and David Roberts, 2007 (new edition 2010), Tyrannosaurus Drip, Macmillan Children's Books.
I finally got Little Troubleblossom into bed tonight by sitting down in the bedroom and reading half of 'Tyrannosaurus Drip', and promising her the second half if she'd consent to be put to bed...
I know Julia Donaldson doesn't need much introduction, but this is something else.
In a swamp beside a river, where the land was thick with veg,
Lived a herd of duckbill dinosaurs who roamed the water's edge,
And they hooted "Up with rivers!" and they hooted "Up with reeds!"
And they hooted "Up with bellyfuls of juicy water weeds!"
Now across the rushy river, on a hill the other side,
Lived a mean Tyrannosaurus with his grim and grisly bride.
And they shouted "Up with hunting!" and they shouted "Up with war!"
And they shouted "Up with bellyfuls of duckbill dinosaur!"
But the two Tyrannosauruses, so grisly, mean and grim,
Couldn't catch the duckbill dinosaurs because they couldn't swim.
And they muttered "Down with water!" and they muttered "Down with wet!"
And they muttered "What a shame that bridges aren't invented yet!"
And in rolling octameter (I think; I'm very tired and running out of fingers to count feet on) that would bring a manly tear to the eye of Lars Porsena of Clusium, Donaldson relates how a duckbill dinosaur egg came to hatch out in the Tyrannosaurus nest, to the derision of his ferocious foster family, who name him 'Tyrannosaurus Drip'. Eventually, Drip runs away, and meets the other duckbill dinosaurs by the side of the river. So far, so Ugly Duckling, but I didn't mention Lars Porsena of Clusium entirely out of the blue: in the night, a storm blows down a tree, and suddenly the Tyrannosauruses can cross the river... but there is Tyrannosaurus Drip, standing bravely on the bridge with a cunning plan...
The text is fantastic, and David Roberts' illustrations splendidly contrast the lush, wet, green world of the peaceful duckbill dinosaurs with the land of thorns, bones and erupting volcanoes that the Tyrannosauruses call home (only quibble: when he's gone to all that trouble to depict tree-ferns, horsetails and other suitably prehistoric detail all around, why has he seen fit to equip all the duckbill dinosaurs with belly buttons?)
Ha ha! Is there a zoologist in the house! I'm going to put that in the same file as the book I had when I was a kid, in which someone took a birthday cake out of the oven ready-iced.
Now off to draw the picture that's forming in my head of someone running out of fingers to count feet on. That'll upset the zoologists!
I know I've said it before somewhere else, but it's outrageous how many people write supposedly rhyming picture books, which get seriously published and sold in proper bookshops, when they can't carry a rhythm in a bucket (someone was complaining about this in the august pages of the Guardian Review, too). You can take six or eight books off the shelves in the children's section and not find a well-crafted metre among them, and if there's one place where rhyme and rhythm have to be RIGHT, it's in a book that you're going to read aloud. A well-crafted rhyme makes a real impression on a toddler: witness the amounts of 'The Gruffalo', 'The Gruffalo's Child' and 'Giraffes Can't Dance' that Little Troubleblossom can recite along with Mummy when being read to. Julia Donaldson can be counted on to rock, and I have a very deep and meaningful respect indeed for someone who can include words like 'Compsognathus' into her verse without dropping a stitch.
It's also suprising how many readers-to-children can't make logical choices when buying or reading them - perhaps we don't all have that much rhythm sense. Perhaps we were distracted by badly crafted books when we were young? A certain dad not a million miles away from me got into trouble with Ma when telling the kids
They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
And I once spent an infuriating half hour with a man who stopped in front of our book stall to tell me modern poetry "didn't have any rhythm in it" I tried to point out that natural speech has rhythm and you can put rhythms other than 'tum ti tum' in poetry but as far as he was concerned, rhythm=tum ti tum. If it don't go tum-ti-tum it ain't got rhythm.
Moreover, this text is so catchy that after reading it to Troubleblossom twice, she's already asking for "Dinosaur book!" at bedtime.
And it gets the Little Troubleblossom seal of approval in that, after a couple of weeks' acquaintance with it, she can now quote complete lines. Moreover, while feeding daisies to her best-beloved teddy in the back garden yesterday, she informed me that Ted-Ted's staple diet consists of "flowers, eggs and duckbill dinosaurs"!