Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jim - A Cautionary Tale

Hilaire Belloc and Mini Grey

Hilaire Belloc originally penned the now-classic cautionary tale Jim in 1907. The poem was intended to be a a satirical response to the morality tales that were popular for children in Victorian times. Updated with fabulous illustrations by Mini Grey, this poem is just as enjoyable now as it certainly was over 100 years later. Isn't that amazing that some stories and poems can stand the test of time like that?    

A spoiled little boy named Jim gets everything he could possibly want. He has strict instructions to stay with his nanny, but slips away every chance he gets. One day at the zoo, Jim pulls this exact trick ... and is snapped up by a lion, quick as a wink. The zookeeper makes a move to assist, but being quite heavy, he does not move too swiftly.  When he does arrive, he is greeted by a dead boy.

Jim's mother is not particularly broken up, and points out they had reminded him time after time not to roam. His father seizes the opportunity to use the zoo mauling to create an example for the other children. He even makes up a posterboard with a crudely drawn disembodied head.         

I'm so impressed that Mini Grey didn't make any changes to the original poem. It is her style and presentation that give this such a fresh look. Unfortunately, the illustrations presented here don't do justice to how the book appears in the story. That's because the real pages are full of lovely pop-ups and tabs to pull open. 

The lion practically pops off the page, and you can peep inside the chocolate bar to see the gooey, pink filling. Most impressive in the map of the zoo that unfolds into six quadrants, yet remains attached to the book.  Lots of funny signs and (Do not stroke the snakes) and clever details are tucked in here.  In all, a classic poem gains an all new audience when presented as a super fun and interactive book!

Review copy provided by Random House. 

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