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BfK Rising Talent 2011

the attention of a small dog which devises a clever way to sneak in and tip it off the kitchen table so that he can gobble it up. One Two, That’s My Shoe! features the same characters. This time the small dog runs off with the girl’s shoe, the rhythm of the rhyme emphasising each episode in the chase until the two are ‘friends again’. Murray approaches her narratives with a lively wit so that the reader identifies, via action sequences and dynamic juxtapositions, with the dog and its stratagems. There is clear typography with elegantly pared down illustrations distinguished by tones made with patterns and textures. The books are printed on satisfyingly thick stock with a matt finish.

Known for his comic strips and cartoons for Viz and for his children’s fiction, John Fardell’s debut picture book Manfred the Baddie was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and won the Royal Mail Award. It was quickly followed by Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High! which was shortlisted for the Booktrust Early Years Award. Fardell’s strong, clear design, vibrant line and cross hatching and consummate handling of the page appear effortless and belie the technical skill with which he handles perspective and creates a visual tension that draws the reader both inwards and onwards. There is a complex interweaving of words and pictures, the whole infused with anarchic comedy and contradiction. It transpires that all Manfred the Baddie really wants is to be loved. And who but Fardell could make a jellyfish (identical in appearance to all the other jellyfish) both an interesting and individual character and a powerfully successful Chief Executive of a Rocket Plane Factory.

John Fardell

(Photo by Graham Clark)

Grahame Baker-Smith

Grahame Baker-Smith’s debut picture book, Leon and the Place Between (text by Angela McAllister), made the shortlist for CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. It is about a boy who goes to a magic show and is literally drawn into the show, the place ‘between’. The engrossingly detailed artwork is filled with rabbits, doves, playing

cards and magician’s assistants while diecut holes into and out of the place ‘between’, take the reader on a journey right through the pages of the book.

Baker-Smith’s second, powerfully imagined picture book, Farther, which he wrote himself, has as much to say to adults as to children. It focuses on the relationship between a father and son and the impact of the father’s unrealized

4 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011

aspirations on his child. Tinged with despair, it is an emotionally charged story with lyrical language and surreal images drawing the reader into a mystical world of impossible dreams. While Baker-Smith paints and draws figures, faces and backgrounds in the traditional way, he uses Photoshop to blend different elements including photographs and textures to produce his disturbing, edgily sophisticated illustrations.

Fiction for younger readers

Of the writers from our dozen rising talents, both Christopher Hill and Elen Caldecott produce funny, accessible novels for younger readers, albeit with very different approaches. This is one of the hardest age groups to write well for and both these ‘rising talents’ demonstrate the ability to engage with the preoccupations of their younger audience with a humour and imagination that will inspire further entertaining work.

Christopher Hill

Christopher Hill’s debut book, Osbert Brinkhoff, is an idiosyncratic comic fantasy set in the city of Schwartzgarten about a small boy whose nanny has an unexpected influence on him. Her mantra: ‘Do unto others, before they can do unto you’, is one that Osbert is to take to heart and in a very literal way. When he wins a coveted place at The Institute (the school which inexplicably and brutally turned down his father when he was a boy), he encounters teachers who see it as their job to crush any spirit or originality out of their charges. The gruesome revenge meted out by Osbert to these sadists who have made his life, and that of his friend, the beautiful Isabella, a living hell is gleefully told in the Dahlesque manner with no grotesque detail (one teacher is sliced up in a strudel maker) spared. As with Dahl’s work, some adults may find this story objectionable but again, as with Dahl, it is likely that children will be most enthusiastic.

How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, Elen Caldecott’s debut novel, made the shortlist for several awards, including the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. When Kirsty’s grandad is dying, he asks her to look after his allotment and she promises she will. Kirsty then needs help to persuade the council’s Mr Thomas to allow her to take it over. Caldecott weaves two complex themes (relationships between half-siblings who only live

Elen Caldecott

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