Janet Charters, illus. Michael Foreman. London: Templar Books, pb. 978 1 8487 7160 4, 2013, £7.99, 48pp.
Picture book, 3-5 years
This was the first picture book illustrated by Michael Foreman, originally published in 1961, reproduced in a 50th Anniversary edition, and ten years on from that made available in this paperback edition.
General Jodhpur martials his soldiers in conventional and rigorous ways and dreams of military recognition. An accident leads to his realisation of the importance and beauty of nature and he achieves fame in a way he would not have predicted. The story is simply and engagingly told and could be shared and provoke discussion with a wide age range of children.
It prefigures the themes of a number of Foreman’s later books about peace and respect for the environment and both he and the author Janet Charters comment in an afterword on its continuing relevance in today’s hostile climate, both in terms of war and the environment.
Red and blue feature strongly in the palette used in the illustrations, the latter being the colour most associated, usually in a host of aquatic shades, with Foreman’s work. It’s fascinating to look at how his style and the themes he explores have developed. In this early work he used strong colours, shapes and patterns – quite different from the more naturalistic style associated with most of his later books, but equally eye-catching.
Review by Ann Lazim