Monday, 13 October 2014

The Dandelion Wish by Sandra Horn & Louise Warwick, reviewed by Julia Jones

I think I should call this review "Picture Book Therapy".
   I had gone up to bed in a grump. Tired, brain-dead, work slow and uncongenial, never able to find that space in the head that allows for free-thinking and creativity.  Then some particularly dear friends invited us to stay for the weekend. Nooooooooooooo! I howled inside but of course it was yes. So I had ended the day so bad-tempered that I didn't even want to read.
   Beside my bed lay The Dandelion Wish. I'd looked at it some weeks ago and wasn't really certain what I thought or what I should say. Now I think I was trying too hard for the latter.
   The Dandelion Wish is about everything that I was lacking. Two children, Jo and Sam, are lying in a summer field. They have been lying there, it seems, for days and days. They go home to sleep, they return to play and simply to Be. Their heads are full of the sun and the breeze and possibly the smell of the grass but they are empty of anything else.
   Jo and Sam are not much like any contemporary children but finally they come close to uttering the dreaded words "I'm BORED." As it happens, they don't. They pick a dandelion each and make wishes as they blow the clocks across the field. Nothing happens for a while then into the field (or into their heads) comes the Dandelion Fair: pirates and a mermaid, a dinosaur, crocodile, puppets, musicians and a hoopla-stall.
   What modern child knows anything about a hoopla-stall? I grumbled to myself. I read the book over several times. I had a few niggles about some commas and capitalisations. There were one or two line breaks and internal rhymes that made me uneasy. This book seemed to be poised to tip into poetry and I just couldn't make it work.
   As I said, I was in a thoroughly bad mood.
   Yet I wanted to like it and I knew that, at some odd level, I did. The children and their images are completely retro. There's nothing that arrives in their heads that hasn't been a staple of kids' lit for the last fifty years.
   That's okay, some things are timeless. Chillax can't you, Julia?


   So I read the book again with my eyes. I let myself feel the space of the field and fly up into the air with the seeds. I let the breeze flutter my frock and and I waited as the distant music drew slowly closer. The mermaid came with waves and swirls, the musicians were impossibly elongated. Finally I was caught up in the magic and I breathed it in until at last, like the crocodile, I curled round and fell asleep.
   And can you guess?
   Of course you can. I had one of the best night's sleep -  WITH DREAMS  - that I've had for rather too long a time. That's picture book therapy. Thank you, Sandra and Louise.