Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Rain rain rain rain flipping RAIN, Mildred.
"What's for dinner tonight?
"Wait no, don't tell me, is it RAIN?"
Britain, eh? We have, like, two hundred words for rain. Outside the singularly British town of Tackleford it is torrential, and the page is lit to perfection in that strange, almost eerie off-greeny-grey that often accompanies an impenetrably stormy sky.
"We can get out of it in the barn, Lottie."
"It smells like a bonfire."
"Be careful not to sit on a rusty nail. That's basically deadly."
It smells like a bonfire because it was one. Someone's been lighting up local wooden barns - accidentally or otherwise - and there's so little left of this one that I'd probably keep that hood up, Lottie. This, of course, is exactly the sort of mystery that our two competitive teams of pre-teen detectives would be investigating but both are currently a proverbial man down. Linton and Sonny have lost Jack while Charlotte and Mildred are missing Shauna on account of Shauna and Jack are in lurve.
"Jack, Wouldn't it be romantic is we were run over by a combine harvester together?"
Hmmm. Unfortunately Jack isn't very good at romance: he can't read the signs. I love his dopey lips and wide eyes as Shauna presses his hands to her heart. She is excited! She's excited because although they have avoided death-by-threshing, they've just spotted a huge, hunched man with no shoes or socks, but a big, bare, hairy back. And I think it's spotted them too. It's hiding under the bridge like a troll.
Jack forbids Shauna to tell Lottie and Mildred but "Sisters before Misters", right?
Meanwhile at school Linton and Sonny have acquired a substitute for Jack in the form of Irish lad Colm who's more than a wee bit wayward when it comes to "shopping". So that could get them in trouble: there are such things as security cameras, you know. On the other hand, he's refreshingly direct and seems to know stuff.
"Now then, lads. That's your missin' friend isn't it, over there with blondie? Don't worry, you've got to let 'em go so they'll come back. That's what my da' says. Of course, he's talkin' about pigeons."
"I believe pigeons are in some way
Oh, Sonny! Sitting on the grass, all dopey, with a daisy-chain draped over his head!
"Sonny, take that off. Someone will thump the dinner out of you."
Effortlessly Allison has set up all the elements that will come into play later on as the temperature rises on the burning barns, Tackleford's fire department blazes into rash action and Lottie's new obsession with romance leads her to try teaching the troll they've been tracking The Art Of Romance. He's about as good at that as Jack.
You don't see John doing this because every page is such a glorious distraction both in its body-language beauty (see BOBBINS), its cartoon flourishes like Colm's world cracking when Charlotte snubs his advances, and all the circuitous shenanigans set at school and while kicking around town afterwards.
It also boasts the recognition factor for it's all so astutely observed: sitting down to supper first the first time with a family and encountering alien table manners; the jumbled mess of less technically minded adults' computers; Lottie and sister Sarah's push-and-pull, tactile relationship and the sort of cheeky, kind-hearted teasing that can only come from love and trust; teachers and their elbow patches; teachers down the boozer of a Friday night.
Also, I've been meaning to mention the petticoat. I don't think I've typed the word "petticoat" before and so seldom see one worn anymore. Credit-hogging, local journalist Erin Jane Winters is wearing one and, as drawn by Allison, its pendulous pleats are ever so pretty.
There are thirty new pages here since it was originally published online including a glossary this time written by Lottie herself and that early school-grounds landscape is a spacious and spatial joy. Speaking of Lottie, I loved her book of local beasts.
"Jerry the Cyclops
"Fearsome looking but his lack of depth perception and physical fitness mean he is NON-THRETTENING.
"Does it make giant honey?
"Not billionaire playboy as suspected, just an idiot with a soldering iron and too much spare time."