Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Do you have any complaints about this book? Write them in the box provided. Please write clearly."
The box is 5mm squared.
I have never read a funnier kids' creativity book in my astonishingly long life.
From the cover to cover, it is one big monkey-barrel of laughs; a mischievous and immersive engagement between the two co-creators and their soon to be enraptured, educated and thoroughly inspired young audience.
McIntyre and Reeve are born performers and creatively generous partners. Both authors, both artists, they bounce off each others' bonkers ideas, adding an extra flourish here and a cheeky post-script there until every page is jam-packed with all the irreverent exuberance that your sugar-buzzed bambino could possibly cope with.
This is the very opposite of those bland, perfunctory, slap-a-puzzle-down, supermarket, rubber-dummy cash-cows.
This is art. It's entertainment.
It is carefully controlled anarchy.
Even the opening About The Authors splash-page is bursting with individuality and neat things to do: there's a mug to embellish with any silly slogan, dust bunnies to draw under Sarah's desk (I don't vacuum far enough under there, either), and Philip has unwisely left his trousers un-patterned for you to redefine him in the loudest fashion imaginable.
Their table-top work space is a well of creativity and they encourage you too to contribute. "Colour this page!" they suggest.
You can colour every page if you like, including their comics like 'The Magnificent Dartmoor Pegasus' or brand-new new ones which they've since made up based - like this entire extravagance - on their best-selling illustrated prose PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH, OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, CAKES IN SPACE and JINKS & O'HARE FUNFAIR REPAIR all of which Page 45 has reviewed and keeps permanently in stock on our massive spread of blindingly colourful all-ages shelves!
It's like revisiting your favourite friends - then drawing all over them!
Yes, there are comics! Comics for you to read, comics for you to create: comics for you to enjoy and absorb first in order to get the general gist of how the mechanics might work, then blank panels for you to fill in between a provocative kick-start and a cuddly conclusion.
You'll be encouraged to write, you'll be encouraged to draw! You'll be actively discouraged from flinging poo.
There's even a new song to sing, and I have spent over an hour honing my already considerable vocal skills (*entire family plus everyone I've ever met convulses with laughter*) to the Sea Monkey shanty which I plan to perform a cappella the very next day that McIntrye and Reeve fail to run away from me in time.
They've become quite fleet of foot.
Some activities are free-form "Go for your life!" exhortations, but more often than not Reeve and McIntrye will offer you examples of their own demented imaginings like 'Pugémon Go!' playing cards complete with names, illustrations, powers, strengths and weaknesses, then leave increasingly blank entries for you to design and refine your own. Completed example:
"Weakness: Gnaws His Own Legs"
Well, he is made of bone! What would you imagine his powers might be? X-Ray Vision...? Tom-Waits-style 'Clap Hands' echoing percussion...? The uncanny ability to scare the living be-jeezus out of your Old Auntie Adderline...?
Invisipug is left entirely blank but probably won't require much illustration, yet you've the rest of its stats to whip up on your own. With Aquapug you have free illustrative as well as stat-orientated rein on, and there are three more completely empty entries including names. Plus: what is to stop you then cutting out cardboard and making a whole new deck of your own Pugémon, Pokémon or any other set of cards to actively play with just like Top Trumps?! Nothing!
That's how exciting, empowering and inspiring this all is, but "increasingly" is ever so clever: McIntyre and Reeve will never throw you in at the deep end unless you're a Sea Monkey, in which case you probably deserve it.
That brings us to the 'Which Character Are You?' Question & Answer survey towards the end. You're presented with seven hypotheticals whose answers will determine whether you are more like A) Iris the Mermaid from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS, B) Astra from CAKES IN SPACE, C) Shen from PUGS OF THE FROZEN NORTH or D) for dunce: a Sea Monkey once more from OLIVER AND THE SEAWIGS.
Now, I don't want you pre-judging me, but my 'Best Subject At School' was neither Swimming, Xenobiology nor Art. Also, the only reason I have time to type this review is that I may - inadvertently or on purpose - have defenestrated my television set.
Oh dear. I know I deserve it.
P.S. I'm infinitely better at reading David O'Connell and Sarah McIntyre's Young Readers' illustrated JAMPIRES rhyme to youngsters on the shop floor than I am at singing. I really am. Honest to goodness. Try me! Recommended.