Has Anybody Seen A Story?

Has Anybody Seen a Story?
Mandana Sadat
Thames & Hudson

‘Once upon a time, there were three Thingummies called Sadie, Spike and Smudge. They lived in the middle of Nowhere in a place called Floatyfish, surrounded by soft fluffy clouds. The Thingummies had everything they needed – plenty of water, plenty of fresh air, and plenty of flutterberries, a delicious kind of flying fruit that you catch with a net.’

So begins Mandana Sadat’s wonderfully quirky meta-fictive picture book wherein we join the Thingummies in their search for adventure.
Three days of walking leads the threesome to a crossorads and they choose first to follow the Fairytale Trail. This foray finds them coming face to face with the exceedingly ugly, very old and mighty frightening ZOMBEAST.

Its threat to erase them entirely sends the friends fleeing for their lives back to the crossroads.

Next they select The Future Freeway, a bright shiny, ‘whizzy and busy and bright’ sort of place where a friendly-seeming robot makes them feel welcome and refreshed but not for long. When the mechanical monster starts unloading its own woes, the three Ss decide to beat a hasty retreat before it’s too late.

The Poetry Path sounds entirely promising so off they go again, discovering a place, the air of which is enriched by beautiful thoughts and wonderful words: Now who wouldn’t want to spend time there imbibing such delights.

Alluring though this location is, Spike decides they should try the final road, so having returned to the crossroads they proceed deep below ground to Bedtime Boulevard. Therein resides famous storyteller, Madame Mole and she’s happy to help the story searchers. So soothing is her voice that it has a soporific effect on the three seekers and they soon drop off to sleep,

only to find themselves next morning back at the crossroads.

There they make a startling discovery when they come upon a signpost they’d not seen previously. It’s a discovery that relates to the true nature of story, those ‘what ifs’ and the power of the imagination. That however is not quite the end of their tale for the three decide to follow the road into the Maze of Mumblings and … and … and … ultimately they do discover a story that is worth the telling …

Let the celebratory party begin!

Absolutely bursting with diverting details (verbal and visual) to relish, Mandana’s story quest world is likely to entrap readers for a considerable time, and having escaped once, they’ll find themselves drawn back for further flights of fanciful fun and new revelations.

Whose Story Is This, Anyway?

%0A

Whose Story Is This, Anyway?
Mike Flaherty and Oriol Vidal
Sterling
I’m a sucker for metafictive picture books and this debut story from Mike Flaherty is one of those. Before the narrative even starts, on the title page (above the actual title) we can see evidence of ‘roads not taken’: there are four alternative titles that are deleted although still readable.
Now, let’s meet the star of the show, our young narrator who proudly kicks off with “You want o hear a story? I’ve got a great one. Why is it great? Because it’s all about me.” He has a side -kick, his cat Emperor Falafel. (love that name).

%0A

Now let’s get on with the story … it’s set beside the sea, on the beach, to be more precise; but pretty soon – on the next page to be exact, Salty Pete the pirate has the audacity to interrupt the barely off the ground narrative and then accuse the young protagonist that it’s him doing the interrupting. Cheek of it!
What should appear out of the blue next but a dinosaur …

%0A

followed not long after by …

%0A

Our narrator does his best to continue gallantly, oops did I say gallantly – big mistake because what should come next but a knight in shining armour telling of dragons foul and maidens fair. But then, after mentions of pizza (that’s from the dragon) and toppings for same (that’s from other members of the cast) the lad finally loses the plot – pretty nearly anyhow …

%0A

but manages to bring himself back from the edge – just – and gives all the others their marching orders. Well, you can’t blame the lad; after all he’s been trying his best to get his story told for over twenty pages hitherto.

%0A

Time to get on with the REAL story then: but oh! oh! Our narrator notices a yawn coming from our direction, could that perhaps be indicative of boredom? Maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to make this whole thing into a win/win affair … Once upon a time …
This is an absolute gift for readers aloud who like to throw themselves heart and soul into a rendition: it’s beautifully orchestrated by colour changes of the speech bubbles, too. I had a ball sharing it with a group. I have to admit though, that I love and welcome interruptions to a story – of a questioning kind though, maybe not of the kind herein. However, the interrupters have my sympathies almost as much as the narrator; and this story has terrific potential when it comes to showing (not telling) youngsters the importance of seeing other people’s view points and of delayed gratification.
Orion Vidal’s cartoon style, digitally rendered illustrations really do highlight the escalating drama of the text until that final spread of serenity. I’m assuming its slightly anti-climactic nature is entirely deliberate and intended to set enthralled listeners off on their own flights of fancy fuelled by the crazy cast of characters herein.

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2