I’m in agreement with Tony Benn and Derek Walcott. The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion and us in the Land at the Back of Beyond (phew, got there at last…) is pretty good. Alan Gilliland, who wrote the story and illustrated the whole book himself, has been hard at work getting people of note to read and comment on his book. Now he’s targeted the bookwitch as well.
It’s, well, it’s about these four soft toys who go on an adventure to the Back of Beyond. Once you’ve decided that soft toys do these things, it’s perfectly natural. After all, what is Winnie the Pooh if not a soft toy?
Just the idea of calling a toy lion Curd the Lion requires a sense of humour, and the book is riddled with puns and other playful twists of words and phrases. Most of them will pass over the heads of young readers, but an adult will have fun. (‘What is pondering? It’s what you do by a pond.’) And I reckon that reading this book aloud to a child would be the most fun. It’s quite long, at over 150 pages, and the pages are large to accommodate all the pictures.
Curd belongs to Henry and so does Pilgrim Crow, whereas the hyena Sweeney the Heenie and the snake O’Flattery are Henry’s twin sister Henrietta’s toys. The Mum’s brooch has disappeared and she is angry. If not found, she will take the toys to Oxfam (or similar) and have them sold.
Obviously the toys love their children, so they set out to find the brooch, because Curd actually witnessed it being taken by the Great Raven. They encounter many creatures and many dangers en route to the Back of Beyond, but Curd’s bravery and wisdom gets them there and back. Naturally.
The black and white illustrations are magical, although I have to admit to being slightly scared by the man in the moon on the cover. Alan seems to have a long and solid background doing this kind of thing, and he has wisely formed his own publishing company to look after his books, as well as a blog. It might mean that it’s more difficult to get the books into the shops. I don’t know. Alan seems to work hard, doing signings all over the place, and I’d say that as long as the book gets to children, it will be popular.
I surprised myself by wanting to read about this cheesy sounding lion, and also by enjoying it as much as I did. But now I really do want a piece of Brie.