I don’t usually review picture books, but this time I’ll do an exception (or will this be the beginning of a new practice?) for Emily Gravett and her new book. I was so excited today when I saw it brand new on the trolley of new deliveries, freshly out of the box, that I had to stop and read it straight away. I don’t think I had ever looked forward to a picture book so much.
Ever since I saw Gravett’s “Orange pear apple bear” and “Wolves” I fell in love with this artist. She is so original and inventive, that I’m not afraid to call her a genius! I’ve read an article about her life and her background that just proves my point. She never had any artistic education. She left home at 17 and lived in a caravan for eight years, at the edge of society, till she had a child and decided she had to find a proper job. All she could do was “scribbling” on her notebook, and that’s why she tried to be accepted to a BA course in illustration. But with no diploma, and no leaving cert, she was refused admission. Emily didn’t give up though and insisted that they looked at her work. They were obviously very impressed cause she was accepted! She went on graduating and her final project “Wolves” was published by MacMillan and won not only the Nestlé prize, but also the super prestigious Kate Greenaway award, the equivalent of the Carnegie Medal for illustrators! What a fairytale!
Her new picture book is just another gem. It’s about a duck who’s sad cause everyone else had laid eggs - the hen, the owl, the parrot, the flamingo – except him. How can that be? But then Duck finds an egg, the most beautiful egg in the world, or so he thinks. The others are not impressed…it looks so odd…will it hatch? Read and find out!
As in Wolves, this book has a surprise ending that I’m sure won’t fail to delight children over and over again. What won’t fail to delight me is Gravett’s artistry. Her sketch-like drawings, the pale watercolours, the funny details, the simplicity of her idea, and yet the brilliance of it, are the reasons why I bought it without thinking twice. I love that owl is reading “The bright baby book” and then when the egg hatches the baby owl is a math genius. I love Duck facial expressions, and the fact that he knits happily for his egg while he waits. I like that the suspense of the final hatching is enhanced by the way the pages are cut, which show each egg cracking, one by one, leaving Duck’s odd egg for last.
It’s a charming little book, which delicately challenges the gender roles (did I mention that he knits?) and brings a smile on your face. I love it!