Friday, 2 January 2015

Tohby Riddle's 'The Great Escape From City Zoo'

Tohby Riddle is not only the final author being reviewed today, but is also an Australian author who I think has created a very complex picture book. It was even shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award. It is a book that I find has even more to offer within the images as the story.
The storyline of this book is reminiscent of the Great Escape; retold in a way that children will be able to understand. And while the story itself for the young readers may be deemed more positive, it reflects the truth of that story for adult readers. Using words in this story such as “recaptured” and “evacuate” kind of solidify this connection too. However, I might argue that older primary school students from the age of seven should read this book for that reason (not that younger ones won’t enjoy it, but they may not grasp as many of the concepts as older readers).
The story itself is easy to follow and isn’t bogged down in words, as the images seem to take pride of place in this book. And the pictures are beautiful. They are all sepia-toned to give the book a sense of history, and each image is bordered to make it look like a snapshot. What I really enjoyed about this book’s pictures is not only the detail, but the references that can be seen within pictures that relate to other famous moments and images in an adult’s collective memory; such as the Abbey Road record cover by The Beatles. When looking at picture books generally, I really love looking for things like, and I really enjoyed this extra element that makes it more enjoyable for the adult reader and a discussion point if they wanted to talk about the images with the child.
I really like Riddle’s book and I think young readers and adult readers alike would enjoy the multiple layers this book allows. While there are no exceptionally bright colours, there is a lot of depth; making it worthwhile for older primary school aged children to want to read again and again. But in truth I believe anyone of any age should check out this picture book!

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