Years ago, when my daughter was little, I loved the Babette Cole picture books. The Trouble With Mum was a favourite. I also liked The Paperbag Princess, which was reprinted not so long ago. I guess my daughter liked them, too, but I think there's definitely a category of picture books that appeal more to parents than children. I'm not thinking nostalgia here, just stories that have elements that adults appreciate more.
But when I opened The Tiger-Skin Rug by Gerald Rose, I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary, and I'm still not sure if this wasn't just me. (Humour is so subjective.) But as I sat at the kitchen table reading this story, I literally laughed so much I had tears running down my face! The pictures help, too. It's designed to look a little old-fashioned, with the illustrations in yellow-framed boxes, and it has the feel of an old folk tale.
The story is basically about an old, skinny tiger that's fallen on hard times in the jungle. He watches the Rajah's palace and sees them all warm and eating lots of good food. Then one day a servant is outside beating rugs, including a tiger skin rug, and the tiger decides to hop on the line and pretend he's a rug in order to get inside. He does succeed, and the trials and tribulations of pretending to be a rug on the floor, especially when he gets fatter from eating leftovers, is hilarious. I have no idea why this picture book appeals to me so much! But it's on my Top Ten list now.
The opposite end of the picture book spectrum from a story is the concept. It can be tricky, depending on what your aim is, to stay away from preachiness. Malachy Doyle's book, The Happy Book, is very simple - less than 100 words. Each double-page spread has two alternatives, e.g. Snivel less. Snuggle more. Or Grab less. Give more! This one does edge into feeling a bit preachy, but it's for the very small, maybe two or three year olds, so no doubt would be a good book for talking about with them.
I was interested to see that Babette Cole has been writing and publishing short novels for children - the ones I have are from the Fetlocks Hall series. She's combined horses and magic - surefire ingredients for 7-10 year old girls. But I do miss her comical illustrations here!
(Books provided for review by Bloomsbury. Links are via Amazon associates.)