Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Rundherum in meiner Stadt (All around in my town)

It's been a busy time around our house with the recent Thanksgiving holiday and I've got a stack of books waiting to review. I thought I'd start with one I unearthed at my local charity shop: Rundherum in meiner Stadt, or All Around in My Town. This book is already very popular with E and I had to wrangle it away from him at breakfast to have a closer look. It's a textless picture book so don't let the German title throw you. You do not need to speak or read German in order to enjoy this slightly oversized board book that's loaded with charming pictures and generous detail.

First published in 1968, Rundherum in meiner Stadt features seven double page spreads of uniquely German yet wholly universal scenes. It takes E a while to get past the cover due to the fire engine and city tram on the front, but once that first page is turned it's a feast for the eyes. A bit like Richard Scarry's Busy Town, the scenes unfold to reveal everyday comings and goings of town life.  Construction sites, industrial shipping docks, city parks and fair grounds are all given fair dues in this cheery picture book. If you look closely you can also follow the changing of the seasons and spy on the private lives of the town residents. There are layers of detail to be discovered in these illustrations and countless little conversations to be had around them too. Just this morning E and I've been talking about brick laying, ducks, swimming pools, band practice and carousels all in one breath.

German author Ali Mitgutsch has written a range of titles for children including several other board books in a similar style to Rundherum in meiner Stadt. Though this is a vintage title it looks to be available at all the big online book sellers and presumably though special order from smaller book stores.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Big days out and about: Potato Needs a Bath and Poppy Cat

photo by Douglas McBride

E and I had a big week last week and attended two events in London town. The first was a children’s play at the Southbank: Potato Needs a Bath. I just can’t get it out of my mind.

What a complete pleasure to sit cross legged on a little red carpet and join Shona Reppe on her journey in this one woman, many fruit and vegetable performance. I was amazed by the visual and textual cleverness of this production and E didn’t budge one inch the whole 35 minutes.

Potato is in dire need of a bath and the one human character in the show, Maris Piper (aka Shona Reppe), shows us exactly why as her fingers get muddier and muddier each time
she tries to coax Potato from the little dresser drawer he calls home. She spends her time readying the other fruits and veg for her party and one by one she introduces us to Plum, Onion, the naughty twin cherries, Peach and ‘Madam Aubergine’ amongst others. It’s completely brilliant and funny and just plain smart. Each piece of produce has its own personality and the props are realistic if not actually edible. There are no wimpy little faces drawn on them, nor does Reppe try to overly animate them, instead she treats them with respect and builds an entire make believe world that you long to stay in all day.

Potato finally does get his bath but as to what happens at the end, well, I won’t spoil the surprise. If you ever have a chance to see Shona Reppe perform then go, go, go. Don’t waste time reading about the production, just book your ticket and know you’re in for a treat. E adored it and his 4 year old companion loved it too.

Another highlight of our week was an invitation to join Poppy Cat for a special breakfast to celebrate the launch of two new books: All Aboard! and Blast Off!. Poppy Cat began as a character in a book series created by British author and illustrator Lara Jones. Poppy Cat is now also the main character of a television series and is quietly earning a reputation as a girl hero (albeit a feline one). She leads her troupe of animal friends on fantastical adventures, she wears pirate hats and she flies rocket ships. It’s not in your face and yet it’s a refreshing change to see a female character at the helm of a set of exciting stories. E was on his feet for most of the lively story time and clearly thought that this giant Poppy Cat (pictured) was the real deal. Who am I to spoil his fun? Poppy Cat's new books are published by Campbell Books.