Posts Tagged Anthony Browne

The Daydreamer

the daydreamerI’m teaching  Year 4 next year (8 and 9 year olds).  So I’ve started to read books that they might like.

I like Ian McEwan’s The Daydreamer a lot, though maybe it’s a bit too old for most Y4 children. Why too old? Perhaps the element of threat. But then again, maybe it’s OK…

It’s a book about a young boy who’s a daydreamer, dreaming about transformations.

My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind.

Ovid, Metamorphoses

So, in the wonderful chapter called The Cat, Peter discovers something unexpected about his cat:

Looking down through the fur, and parting it with the tips of his fingers ,he saw that he had opened up a small slit in the cat’s skin. It was as if he were holding the handle of a zip. Again he pulled, and now there was a dark opening two inches long. William Cat’s purr was coming from in there.

The choice of Anthony Browne as illustrator is perfect. His detailed realistic images always have an element of the surreal in them, and McEwan’s writing embeds the mysterious in the quotidian detail of family life:

In the big untidy kitchen there was a drawer. Of course, there were many drawers, but when someone said, ‘The string is in the kitchen drawer,’ everyone understood. The chances were the string would not be in the drawer. It was meant to be, along with a dozen other useful things that were never there: screwdrivers, scissors, sticky tape, drawing pins, pencils. If you wanted one of these, you looked in the drawer first, then you looked everywhere else. What was in the drawer was hard to define: things that had no natural place, things that had no use but did not deserve to be thrown away, things that might be mended one day. So—batteries that still had a little life, nuts without their bolts, the handle of a precious teapot, a padlock without a key or a combination lock whose secret number was a secret to everyone, the dullest kind of marbles, foreign coins, a torch without a bulb, a single glove from a pair lovingly knitted by Granny before she died, a hot water bottle stopper, a cracked fossil. By some magic reversal, everything spectacularly useless filed the drawer intended for practical tools. What could you do with a single piece of jigsaw? But, on the other hand, did you dare throw it away?

I think maybe this would be a good read-aloud book, to make the trickier ideas more accessible, and to be together for the weirder parts. The language is, as you’d expect, just right, good to hear.


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the shape game

Sam in between books, time for a picture book, The Shape Game by Anthony Browne (mentioned before).

‘I was a little boy and I didn’t know what to expect. It was my mother’s idea – that year for her birthday she wanted us all to go somewhere different. It turned out to be a day that changed my life forever.’

A family reluctantly visits an art gallery but one by one each member is energized by a different picture in the gallery and transported into the imaginative and colourful world of art.

Here are some of the paintings they look at in the Tate Gallery:

Past and Present, No. 1 1858 by Egg

Seventeenth century British School, The Cholmondeley Ladies c.1600 – 1610

John Singleton Copley, The Death of Major Peirson, 1781

John Everett Millais, The Boyhood of Raleigh, 1870

It’s one of the things that’s great to see happen with a group of kids, watch them become absorbed in a picture they sit down in front of, start to see all sorts of things in it, listen to each others ideas, ask questions…

Or, build on this shape of mine:

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gorilla man

(from Anthony Browne’s recent book Little Beauty)

I briefly mentioned writer /  illustrator, children’s laureate, Anthony Browne before. We were having a look at some of his classics today:

Gorilla, the tale of a girl with a much too busy dad, who is swung off to the zoo and thte cinema by a gorrila.

The tunnel where a brother and sister who don’t like each other, come face to face after crawling through a mysterious tunnel.

A walk in the park, where two small families pass in the park. The dogs play first, then the children, but the parents never ignore each other.

All touch imaginatively on neglect, silence when words should be spoken, even hostility. For a while, years ago, I felt uneasy with them. Now I’m pleased they have such a strong flavour, that they are a kind of challenge to adults and kids alike, while being beautiful and interesting and many-facetted quite apart from the challenge;

Here’s the man himself on YouTube:

I read here:

A game he talks a lot about when he meets children is ‘the Shape Game’. As a child he played it with his brother and he later turned it into a book of the same name, following his experiences as Illustrator in Residence at the Tate Gallery.

‘I play the Shape Game with children because they start to believe they can’t draw. But they can naturally, instinctively draw. Drawing is about communicating. It is not about producing perfect representation, but about communicating ideas, and the Shape Game encourages that.

‘It is a simple but fun game. Ultimately, it is the essence of creativity, because every time we create a picture, write a story, compose a piece of music, or we have taken something that we have seen, heard or read, we have transformed it into our interpretation, something of our own.

‘It may be that at the same time that children start to say “I can’t draw”, they are pushing away the picture book. We don’t value looking. I think we are quite a visually illiterate nation.’

And here in The Times:

“Picture books are special. They are not like anything else. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures — a gap that is filled by the reader’s imagination.”

“These are not books to be left behind as we grow older. I would like to encourage the act of looking. I would like to encourage children and adults to learn the Shape Game.”

Come on then, here’s my shape:

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Anthony Browne

laureate Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne: Willy and Hugh illustration by Anthony Browne 1 Anthony Browne: Illustration for Voices in the park by Anthony Browne 2 Anthony Browne: King Kong, illustration by Anthony Browne 3 Anthony Browne: My Brother, illustration by Anthony Browne 4 Anthony Browne: My Dad, illustration by Anthony Browne 5 Anthony Browne: My Mum, illustration by Anthony Browne 6 Anthony Browne: Zoo, illustration by Anthony Browne 7 Anthony Browne: Gorilla, illustration by Anthony Browne 8 Anthony Browne: Gorilla, illustration by Anthony Browne 9 Anthony Browne: Gorilla, illustration by Anthony Browne 10 Anthony Browne: Willy Dreamer, illustration by Anthony Browne 11 Anthony Browne: Willy Dreamer, illustration by Anthony Browne 12
Anthony Browne has become the new “children’s laureate” in Britain. (hear him here)
They are great books, sometimes a little disturbing, always a little surreal. There is always an “edge” to them.

I am in Picture 9!
Great site the new Thanks

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