“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Quentin Blake / 128 pages / Book published by Red Fox „
The Laureate's Party
Author: Quentin Blake
Red Fox Publishing House (1999)
This book was dedicated to Quentin Blake's God-children
Attracted to the carefree gaiety of the outer cover that resembles a witty book with flamboyant characters and joyful text, I recognized the author in an instance - Quentin Blake. In fact the paperback book is homage to the great children's illustrator - bringing characters to life by a quick flick of the ink pen and a flourish of colour. All done with an ease and finesse of about ten seconds of mark making - his use of negative shapes shows his immense creativity and understanding of 'fun' and 'children'. The gold background cleverly orchestrated as a special commemorative book, on the cusp of being a collector's item, for those who worship children's illustrative memorabilia. Especially as it comes from the first Children's Laureate - Quentin Blake - who writes in modest terms his honor at becoming the chosen Laureate in the fifth month of 1999. Initially he adopts the attention of his young readership by composing himself as if he is teaching a History lesson. Spectacles lodged on his snout peering down at his young subjects. 'Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I will begin."
In no particular order Blake chooses his favourite fifty children's books, some you may agree with, some you may not. He assures the other children's authors that there were a vast number of fabulous books he couldn't add to this book, he is sincerely sorry - and he bows his elderly head apologetically. I'm sure the non-chosen authors can live with themselves - albeit, baffled why Blake would be so gravitas in his style of writing. Well he is the first Children's Laureate - I guess it is a momentous occasion to be able to choose without a client brief or publisher hindrance their fifty favourite children books. Not due to laziness, Blake has left several pages empty at the back of the paperback so you can add your own book additions, if you didn't agree. Still Blake has drawn sketches of librarians carrying books in the corner of the page. Blake's generosity doesn't just end there - he'd invited fellow illustrators to doodle amongst his text; not too vividly mind; it is improper to over-shadow Quentin Blake's exuberant compositions, in his own book.
Oh what a Dahling!
The late Roald Dahl initiated Blake's rise to children's laureate by commissioning him to illustrate a great number of his children's stories. And indeed, several have made the fifty; such as 'Esio Trott' - again Blake couldn't go on this charade without mentioning a Dahl creation, so he did. Professionally Blake found the arrangement of the 'Trott' illustrations most fascinating - I found myself pondering whether I was reading Blake's memoirs; all composed in the most unorthodox means. 'Northern Lights' - written by: Phillip Pullman embraced adventure and charisma the two ingredients Blake gets stimulated by. The Oxford spires are a gothic back-drop for a child's virile imagination, and indeed Blake salivates over it, as if a blueberry muffin. William Shakespeare adds historical literature royalty to the listings with his 'King of Shadows' - the seventeenth century ruff gets the energetic pen and ink squiggle, as does the feathered bulbous hats and Elizabethan skinny long johns. Blake who's toured the depths of primary education expresses the joy of Shakespeare to modern children today. They're eager to hear the tales - eyes resembling saucers and in awe. Blake writes like Enid Blyton, in a simplistic friendly way - courtesy at the core - inanely affable. As a reader I wanted to here if any of his eleven year olds pea-shooted whilst he galvanized Julius Caesar's bloody assignation; the school canteen ran out of ketchup that day. Apparently, every school tour ran perfectly. Hard to imagine I'm afraid.
Blake's active career span has elapsed fifty years - embarking in 1954, as a junior apprentice - 'The Laureate's Party' certainly isn't one of his better books, but more of a journey for Blake himself as he depicts his fifty stories and then justifies the choice. Sadly, his writings do not match his illustrative style. He remembers his youth like an decrepit story-teller - smiling quietly to himself - no sign of Game-Boy's - PS3 or interactive media extravaganzas' - nevertheless the book may appeal to youngsters after their sugar rushes settle down. As Blake reminisces, even to me his writing feels disjointed like a lost world, where no party would be complete without the appearance of an accordion. Dipping into the book may enthrall Blake enthusiasts, or if you're of similar mindset to me, you often sift through the weird comment, which makes you keel over in hilarity. I turn to Blake's views on Terry Pratchett.
"Perhaps there is no point in mentioning Terry Pratchett, because so many have read his books already - except that I know I didn't read them for a long time because I thought they were science-fiction, which I'm not particularly interested in. But really, as Terry Pratchett explains, but they are fantasy." Naturally, I felt for Pratchett - his 'Men At Arms' gets Blake's nod and enters the top fifty - albeit grudgingly so.
The content is banal and self-rewarding - Blake reminds his readership he is indeed the first children's laureate and he reminds himself he is immensely proud at being so. Ok Quentin time to move on and get back to what you're renown for, illustrating quirky people who've had far too many Sherrys'. Not recommended unless you belong to the Quentin Blake fan-club and don't want to re-new the annual membership.©1st2thebar2011