Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Unicorn was sitting in his special writing house.
"I am going to write the most FABULOUS story in the world," he thought.
Brilliant! Full marks for ambition! A++
"This made him feel very pleased with himself.
"He already liked being a writer."
Also for self-belief: once you start writing then you are indeed a writer! It's finding the courage to put your first words to paper that's the trick: actually starting in on your story...
But do you know what? Do it!
Don't wait for inspiration to come knocking on your door; it'll only be a cold-caller, touting for business. Clear your own mental gutters and begin doodling away, jotting down ideas! Start writing sentences - any sentences will do - until some start sounding right. They never will sound right until you begin!
That's going to be Unicorn's problem if he's not careful. He'll also have to overcome a certain degree of self-obsession; for one must always remember the value of friendship as the most important source of happiness, but also a well of that oh-so elusive inspiration.
What a deliciously vibrant book, with a dazzlingly shiny gold cover!
I adore all the reflected and refracted light; the way the colours pulse in the sky then shine like shards on the choppy seas' surfaces; the way they wave and beam and whirl in the water below. Those are some truly tasty lemons, lime-greens and tangerines, and oh my days the plum-coloured purples!
Multiple award-winning Sarah McIntyre, author / artist of THE NEW NEIGHBOURS, DINOSAUR FIREFIGHTERS, VERN AND LETTUCE, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN etc (the last one co-created with Philip Reeve - do please see our dedicated Reeve & McIntyre section bursting with so many exuberant reviews), returns with another picture book of mischief, mirth and the mindfulness which parents so very much appreciate.
And this is the key to Young Readers' picture books: you need to get parents as enamoured with the stories (which they'll be reading to young ones over and over and over again) as their wide-eyed offspring. It's the adults' enthusiasm on reading that's infectious, and comedy and compassion work wonders.
So does spectacle!
Seldovia in Alaska is credited as inspiration within the dedication, and to me that manifests itself for example in the base of the snow-capped coned mountains which rise directly from the ocean, with their tiers of tree designs which you might find on very woolly jumpers. Also, the light, as dazzling as any Aurora Borealis!
Background jokes are a bonus too, like the craft loosely resembling the Beatles' Yellow Submarine which later returns as Mermaid's mode of transport / mobile home, the joke of its redundancy delightfully left for all to observe for themselves.
On top of that, Narwhal, Mermaid and Jellyfish each project their own versions of what they imagine "the most fabulous story in the world" might entail in visual thought clouds. In Narwhal's case it's the gallant seahorse-assisted assault on a turreted castle in order to rescue a younger prince or princess, locked up in a tall tower, from the fiendish clutches or an orange octopus. You can tell that he's fiendish from the twirled moustache. And an octopus's clutches would take four times any ordinary extraction because of those eight suckered tentacles. Ambitious!
Lastly, no one needs saccharine, and I can assure you that Unicorn has a little bit of growing up to do lest he be called Grumpycorn for life. For by "a certain degree of self-obsession" I mean that he starts off as a right old diva, unnecessarily rude and thoughtlessly, hurtfully dismissive of his friends.
""WOW!" said Narwhal. "Can I be in your story?"
His glee is self-evident.
""Don't be silly," said Unicorn. "No one wants to read a story about a narwhal. Narwhals are very boring. There will be no narwhals in my story."
""Oh," said Narwhal."
His poor blue face is a devastating picture of startled, uncomprehending, internalised rejection.
"He swam sadly away."
Don't fret, families, friendship is what holds most sway here! A little bit of loving, a whole lot of baking, and a co-creative intervention will return that grandiose Grumpycorn round to appreciating that which matters the most.
There'll just be a right old silly strop first!
P.S. Fab to see that Colin the Crab's cheekily back! See OLIVER AND THE SEA WIGS, THE LEGEND OF KEVIN and PUG-A-DOODLE-DO! A BUMPER BOOK OF FUN!