Since leaping into the world of personalised children’s books, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time in the bookshop round the corner getting lost in magical other worlds. A wonderful thing to be able to do, especially when you can legitimately say you are doing Important Research For Work! Anyway, I’m now reaping what I’ve sown, and am being encouraged to share some of the ‘research’ with you! (I’m still working on the children’s version of the Mr Glue Book Review, but in the meantime, here’s my one!)
Actually, to be fair, I need no encouragement as I could happily blather on about children’s books all day! So saying, I’m going to kick off this week with one of my all time favourites, ‘A Lion in the Meadow’ by New Zealand author, Margaret Mahy, with illustrations by Jenny Williams. (Sorry – you can tell from the state of the pages that this has been a much-read story!)
This is a lovely book: a little boy tells his mother that there is a lion in the meadow. His mother tells him not to be silly, and when he persists, she sends him out with a matchbox containing a dragon that will sort out the lion.
The next moment the little boy and the lion come dashing in and hide in the cupboard – because of the dragon! The mother, amazed, says that it was only a story she made up. The lion philosophically replies that that is how it is. Anyway, it all ends well with everyone living happily together, the lion together with the family (enjoying apples, hugs and bedtime stories) and the dragon happily in the meadow outside (nobody minded), an arrangement that suits all of them.
I love the way fantasy and reality are woven together with warmth and good humour, but also a little edge of danger. The illustrations are beautiful watercolours, with lovely details of everyday things. The lion and the dragon are as easily part of the scene as the mother reading a bedtime story or feeding the baby. There’s imagination and fear, homeliness and wildness, and finally everything made well with bedtime stories and hugs. Magical!