I’m really happy that Michael (one half of TheBigForest) agreed to guest post for me- I hope you enjoy today’s post as much as I do!
When I was young I was given a large scale picture book for older children called The Map That Came To Life. It had been published more than twenty years earlier in 1948 and showed an England that had already disappeared.
The story tells of John and Joanna who are on their summer holidays. They walk, with Rover the farm dog, from their Uncle Georges Farm to Dumbleford Fair. Uncle George has shown them the previous evening how to read a map and the book unfolds in large picture book double spreads juxtaposing the map with illustrations of the ‘real’ countryside that comes to life and a written narrative about the children’s adventures.
I’m not sure what held my imagination as a child, perhaps that I have always seen maps as an effective means of time travel or that my grandparents owned a farm in rural Sussex and I too walked across the fields to the village. I’m sure it couldn’t have been an identification with John all rocked up in shorts and long school socks or a wish to be friends with Joanna with her shiny plaits and large white bows. They look about 12 or 13 and, well, all rather uncool.
There is a beauty and simplicity to the world A Map That Came To Life portrays. Like so many children’s books there is drama (a fire, a lost child) but you know it is all going to be fine in the end. Uncle George will pick them up in his horse and trap and take them home for a slap up tea with Aunty Mary.
A couple of years ago I was surprised to find another copy of The Map That Came To Life dated 1963. Someone, perhaps Ronald Lampitt who drew the original, had tried to update the 1940’s illustrations. The perky hats and shoulder pad dresses had been blurred to a softer silhouette, the steam train replaced by a diesel and the cars had sleek lines rather than the older ‘sit up and beg’ profile. The biggest change was that the gentle lithograph colours had become all bright and shiny and so much was lost.
I was thinking about the comfortable world of the Map That Came To Life the other day when things were a bit tough. There is something so wonderful about escaping in to a story book land where tigers who come to tea are not the slightest bit threatening or everyone just comes together and builds a house for their neighbours.
Is there a story book you would like to escape in to?
Guest blogger: Michael is a consultant in the arts and culture sector he is also one of the designers at TheBigForest a business based in Brighton and London. Find TheBigForest blog here.
If you want the reading list here it is!
The Map That Came To Life by HR Deverson and drawn by Ronald Lampitt; A House In The Woods by Inga Moore; The Tiger Who Came For Tea by Judith Kerr.