13 December 2006

Barnaby Bennett

Barnaby Bennett
By Hannah Rainforth
Illustrated by Ali Teo

Huia Publishers 2006

ISBN 1 86969 232 2

Barnaby Bennett is one of my top favourite picture books for 2006. He's quirky, determined, innovative and has lots of individual style!
Barnaby is apparently named for a real person - Hannah Rainforth heard the name and decided it had to be immortalised in print and so created this little boy. We all know how single-minded small children can be, when something is their favourite nothing else will do. One morning Barnaby wakes up and decides he has to wear red, and only red. He gathers up a collection of clothing from his various family members - considerately leaving his own jandals in exchange for his brother's red sandals - and announces:
"I'm Barnaby Bennett, I only wear red!"
The trouble begins when he refuses to wear anything else, getting smellier and smellier as the days go by. His family all try and convince him that he should try another colour but he persists.
His Nanny has the answer though - and she is a very funky-looking woman herself with her purple hair and sequinned shoes. She creates the most glorious sunshiney yellow outfit complete with claws, a mechanical tail and built-in sherbert and marshmallow supplies! The temptation is of course entirely too much for Barnaby and he said with a whoop, said with a bellow, "And now I'll only, yes always, wear yellow!"
The language is delicious with mouthfuls like 'ginormous', 'conundrums' and 'epiphany', the slang 'jocks' and 'jarmies', and even entirely made-up words like the descriptive 'spluddy'. A pleasure both to read and to listen too with lots of potential for drama and expression in the read-aloud experience.
Ali Teo has again brought freshness and interest to the illustrations that both accompany and incorporate the text. Her work on Oh! Hogwash Sweetpea (which Hannah Rainforth did the translation work on) and the recent Joy Cowley Award-winner Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! also uses this popular collage style of illustration. Ali is certainly one of the first creating illustrations in this way in New Zealand, also familiar in creations by UK author Lauren Child and others, and now being seen in the new crop of books from round the world.
The hand-drawn characters leap around in their collage environment created from a multitude of materials from fabric, papers, photographs and more, encouraging close examination to see exactly how each spread has been put together, and also hopefully encouraging some creativity and a sense of discovery in the reader.
Well done to the team at Huia who have created a picture book that will appeal to the everyday Kiwi family, have us laughing and recognising ourselves and our environments, and just enjoying the pleasure of knowing Barnaby and his family.

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