Thursday, 21 September 2017

Book Review: 'The Grotlyn' by Benji Davies

Before you even get to the text in this book, there is much to feast the eyes and mind on. The cover (including the one hidden under the dust jacket) and the double-page spread preceding the title page are gloriously illustrated in smokey muted hues which evoke a particular sense of place and time. The backstreets of a Victorian city are brought to life by a cast of intriguing characters. Children will linger over these pages providing adults a chance to question and discuss what can be seen - a perfect opportunity to explain exactly what a barrel organ is and does.

The title page itself furthers the intrigue with its snatch of song - what is The Grotlyn? Benji Davies does a sterling job of reeling in the reader, child and adult alike.

The first page of text sees the book set out its stall in terms of vocabulary - this is going to be rich in language: 'But what at first we think to be, The eye does blindly make us see.' Pick that apart with an 11 year old, or leave it be with a littler one - the story works on many levels. Every new page brings another beautiful turn of phrase - perfect for the budding logophile.

Once you've read this captivating rhyming text and pored over the images, you'll find yourself working your way back through it, picking up on the clues that the author skilfully weaves through both words and pictures and making sense of them in light of the uplifting (literally) ending. As the mystery unravels, children will delight in the antics of the book's protagonist, and by the end, they will be rooting for the once-frightening Grotlyn.

Every inch of the book is awash with clever and deliberate authorial choices and decisions that make several re-reads an absolute must. The illustrations alone could spark lengthy discussions when presented in or out of context - for teachers, there is so much material to use here.

For those wanting to go a little deeper, the concept of freedom is a main theme here. Should animals be kept in captivity? Why do people want to escape certain aspects of their life? What causes humans to go to great lengths, sometimes even breaking laws to attain freedom?

However this book is read, it is certain to become a favourite for all those who are fortunate enough to experience it. Benji Davies has delivered another thought-provoking, multi-layered picture book that is sure to be enjoyed by readers of all ages. 

For an interview with Benji Davies click here.


No comments:

Post a comment