First published in 1990, Changes is a thought-provoking illustrated story from the current Children's Laureate, Anthony Browne. It tells a story from the perspective of a young boy, Joseph, as he starts to notice strange things happening around the house.
Follow an animal theme, first the kettle, then other ordinary household items start to take on various characteristics, such as a tail or a hand, jaws or lips and a nose. It's all about change. You see, Joseph's dad has gone to bring his mum home, and has told him that there will be changes around the house.
As he progresses through the house, these changes start to get a bit more drastic, such as the armchair completely turning into a gorilla (an animal that is very much a recurring theme throughout Browne's books) or the bottom of the sofa taking on a crocodile's appearance.
I found it a really thought provoking and progressive story. Essentially, Joseph's dad has gone to the hospital to bring home his mum and their new baby - these are the changes dad is on about. However, it shows how the mind can take something rather normal being said (in that circumstance) out of context and let the imagination run wild with it. Joseph's mind is wondering what sort of changes, so he has started to 'see' things turning into animals, changing their appearance.
I imagine Joseph is about 9 or 10, although it never says in the book. The illustrations seem to put him around that age. Visually, the illustrations in general are quite simple, with a very basic home presented to us, with subtle yet effective changes happening to standard household items. The sink on the front cover is a prime example (if you can see the product picture). It has a mouth at the bottom where the plughole should be, and a nose where the overflow gap is, with eyes in the top of the taps. The colours are very soft and inviting, with very realistic artwork especially when it comes to people's faces. Joseph's face is extremely well done.
It gets a little bit surreal when Joseph's bike turns into an apple, though, and I wasn't too sure about this element of it. The gorilla theme is something that Browne uses in a lot of his books, and this one is no different. A couple of pages could be a bit freaky for younger viewers: the huge gorilla's eyes peering in at the window was a bit of a shock to me, to be honest, and quite eerie. The words are very minimal, letting the pictures do a lot of the talking. This is another trait of his I have noticed.
I think the book would be quite a good one to read to a child who is about to become the older sibling Joseph did in the book. It may help them look at things in a different way, but also, as a parent, you may find it gives YOU a chance to look at things from their point of view. I know it can affect older siblings when a new baby comes into the house and takes a lot of the attention away, and this is almost like a relaxed way of looking at it from another angle.
It's a very clever way of examining the changes that Joseph was imagining, and is a book I highly recommend. It doesn't have a great deal of words to it, and is suitable for kids who are learning to read. The illustrations are appealing, and the book retails at £5.99, which is quite standard for children's books. Recommended.