Friday, December 17, 2010
Petr Horácek and pre-school books: part 3 (the Christmas goose)
Don't worry I shan't be cooking Suzy for Christmas! (My son always asks for a beef stew, cooked for hours in port and Guinness ... much nicer!) But our Suzy Goose does make a good Christmas story and an apt posting for the last of my December musings. And so here is Suzy Goose and the Christmas star
Petr Horácek's Suzy is the same cut out goose with visible pencil lines around the edge, but his backgrounds are much looser in this picturebook. You can see from the front page here that his Christmas tree is very jaggedy, as though he's used a spatular to paint. But it does give us a lovely outdoor feel and the snow looks wonderland-like, thick and loose.
The front endpapers are indeed whole pages of snow, with symmetrical snowflakes drawn here and there. In fact, there is so much snow that when you turn to the dedication and title pages, it's just as profuse. We see Suzy under the title, marching in her headlong manner into the book's following pages.
Suzy and her friends are gathered around a tree. The illustrations show us several geese and charming illustrations of a cow, a pig and a donkey, standing outside a warm looking stable. Indeed. The Christmas tree is lovely, but they all agree that something is missing. "It needs a star on top," honked Suzy. "Just like the one in the sky. I'll get it."
A lovely blotchy night sky and her geese friends are quite different, drawn in wax and painted over in the night sky blue. They look ghostly. And off goes Suzy, she dived from the top of the hill, slid down super fast and "Whoooosh flew high in the sky." She is really a comet goose! But isn't it a great illustration? Children notice the words "Whoooosh" as it's part of the illustration and will point it out.
We all know it's impossible to get a star by whooshing. And of course Suzy didn't get "... quite high enough. Splat!" But she had another plan. She climbed onto a fence. Here is the lovely four framed spread, showing the sequence of actions ..."But not quite high enough. Splat!" The kids will notice "Splat" too!
She also tries climbing a pile of logs, again there are four frames showing the sequence of actions, "But not quite high enough. Splat!" So now she thinks she'll just walk towards it. She really is a convincing 'Silly Goose!' We can see snow and the star, almost obliterated in the top corner of the double spread. And then when we turn over... yikes, no star, and poor Suzy Goose is snow bound, and just a bit sad.
"I can't reach the star and I'm very far from my friends."
And here she is all alone. "She was lost."
The children will have accompanied Suzy in feeling positive and full of good ideas to feeling down right glum. Petr Horácek successfully brings us to a climax here. Brrr it does look cold, what's going to happen to silly Suzy?
That's when she hears a noise, "Ding, Honk, Ding, Honk". We know the 'Honk' belongs to her goosey friends, but the 'Ding'? Well I didn't show you the page, but the friendly cow has a nice bell around her neck! But it is a good puzzle for the children, as they are at first stumped by this sound, which isn't animal like at all. Also beware... animal sounds change in different languages. So 'honk' is odd too if you haven't already played with animal sounds.
And we see Suzy retrace her steps, walking, climbing the pile of logs, going over the fence and finally up the hill she so gracefully whoooosed down! A lovely way to remember the sequence. And of course every one is very happy to see Suzy. But it was her goosey friends who help her find the star in the end, for they were craning their necks upwards, and sure enough, the star was sitting right on top of the Christmas tree.
"And it looked magical!"
"'Happy Christmas,' honked Suzy Goose with all her friends."
They are all in the shed now, warm and safe and ready for Christmas. And when we turn to close the book and we turn to the back endpapers, that wonderland-snow scene, and there's a star blinking at us in the top right hand corner. Lovely!
A simple story but what wonderful snowy creations Horácek has given us, using his lovely painterly brush, allowing bits of blue to show through his snowy pages imitating that special reflection of the world that snow has. No need to do anything but tell this story and tell it many times over. Children love the silliness of Suzy and her sound effects, and they can feel that cold snow too. A super pre-school Christmas book!
All that's left is for me to say is, "Thank you for reading my blog over the last seven months, festive greetings to you and happy 2011!"