Sunday, 4 November 2012

Archie, by Domenica More Gordon

When I was little my mum and I both loved a series of books that featured the two characters of Ernest and Celestine, a father bear and his adopted daughter mouse and their gentle little adventures together (which, incidentally, has just been made into a film). Written by Gabrielle Vincent, they featured gorgeous illustrations and lovely, peaceful stories. Domenica More Gordon’s first book, Archie, reminds me quite a bit of Ernest and Celestine. The story is quite different, as are the illustrations, and yet she has somehow managed to capture a similar essence with both.

Archie is a picture book in the absolute purest sense. The entire story is told just in pictures: other than a few sound effects, such as ‘ring ring’ for the phone, or ‘snip snip snip’ as a pair of scissors cuts into fabric, there is no dialogue and no ‘this happened and then that happened’. I love this. While there is a clear story/plotline running through the book, the lack of words simultaneously allows the reader - whether adult or child - to add their own, individual interpretation to the images on the page. You could read it aloud to your child using your own descriptions of what you see on the page, or read it together, discussing between you what you see; or you could simply leave your child alone with the book and let their imagination roam free, making their own story up to go along with the pictures.

The story that I saw in Archie is of a dog inspired by the gift of a sewing machine to make a cosy winter coat for his own pet dog. When he and the little ’un go out walking, the other dog owners see the new coat, and soon Archie is inundated with requests from his friends to make coats for their dogs. Both the coats and the dogs themselves come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, colours and patterns, and before he knows it, Archie is even making coats and dresses for the owners. These go down a treat; so much so that Archie even gets a request from a rather special Corgi... Is this the Great Aunt Betty who sent Archie the sewing machine in the first place?

The only slightly odd thing about Archie is the fact that the dogs have dogs for pets. But, looking at Gordon’s website, it is clear that this lady has a particular thing for dogs - her main income seems to come from creating little woollen or felted dogs, and her site is filled with doggy sketches. I like the book though. It’s simple and sweet and different.

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