Sally Kinnes makes some
Big red paper lips pop up on the last page of Little Monsters Jan Pienkowski (Orchard Books. £4.95) invitineg asking to be kissed. Nothing changes ifyou kiss them. but they are set below a pair of reflecting sunglasses arranged for peering in 'o. It is too cheeky and witty to be just a gimmicky book. as is anotheroutstanding pop-up book. Raymond Briggs' Snowman Pop-up (Hamish Hamilton. £8.95). It seems there is nothing this Snowman and his magical wordless world cannot do. Again the biggest surprise is saved till the very last page: a big fishy tale disappears into pop-up waves which lift up and release a tiny mechanism playing the Snowman's theme. It is fragile and will probably get damaged but it nevertheless makes you long to find a child to give it to.
More educational and more resilient are the little Spot board books. They are small. fairly cheap (£1.99) and chunky with the edges cut into funny shapes. Made ofthick cardboard they have also been made wipeable. The series includes Spot looks at Shapes, Spot looks at Colours, Spot's FirstWords and Spot atthe Fair. Eric Hill (lleinemann. £1.99). for approx 2-3 years. Also attractive. fun and good for those just beginning to read is Mog‘s Amazing Birthday CaperJudith Kerr (Collins. £4.95). Mog (the cat) romps through the alphabet in what is a learning-to—identify-letters book. With a different letter on each page in upper and lower case. Mog has an alliterative and amazing adventure. Effective and educative. if not quite so much fun as the Mog stories. Amongst the best ofthe Christmas books for children is James Herriot's The Christmas Day Kitten (Michael Joseph. £5.95). which finds just the right balance between emotion and sentiment. It tells the tale ofan independently minded cat who regularly visits an old lady. but never stays for long. One Christmas day she comes back to die. but instead of allowing the story to end. (and to wallow) here. she is made to bring her kitten with her. The kitten is lively. inquisitive and unlike her mother. will stay with the old lady. Well illustrated by Ruth Brown. for about 7 years plus.
It‘s a good time to be 6- 10 years as far as books are concerned and this age category is well and imaginatively served. Nearly everything the highly resourceful Janet and Alan Ahlbeg do is good (his stories. her illustrations) and their latest book The Jolly Postman
finds in children‘s literature.
(Heinemann. £5.95) is a real winner. Every other page is made into an envelope containing a Real Letter and on the pages in between. in rhyming stanzas. the postman goes on his rounds. Correspondents include the Wicked Witch. Cinderella and the Wolf A letter from Little Red Riding Hood‘s solicitors. Messrs Meeny. Miny and
Mo. to the Wolfvery cryptically informs him that his harassment has got to stop! Also that his huffing and puffing with the Three Little Pigs will get him nowhere! It is a lovely idea for any child who likes opening and receiving letters and will probably spark off a few oftheir own.
Michael Rosen (whose other books include the popular When Did you last Wash Your Feet?) makes a good team with illustrator Quentin Blake. Underthe Bed, The Bedtime Book (Walker Books. £1 .95) is made up of short. funny poems and scenes which are set amongst playful and well—coloured sketches. For approx 6 years plus.
Norman Thelwell wrote his book How to Draw Ponies (Magnet. £3.95) because he was so often asked the question. The text is clear. engaging and full of practical advice eg likening the ponies‘ shape to a kidney bean with flexible wire limbs. His tips about attention to nostrils. mane and tail to give character. movement and mood are both useful and illuminating. For 10 years plus.
There are two new editions of Lewis Carroll‘s Alice in Wonderland this year. both conversation points on account oftheir pictures. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Methuen £9.95) introduces the previously unpublished drawings of David Hall into the text for the first time. They were drawn for a Walt Disney film. but never use. The Complete Alice and the Hunting ot the Snark (Jonathan Cape. £15) combines in one volume for the first time the three Carroll books with illustrations by Ralph Steadman. Both books are attractive and well produced. The former includes an interesting ‘Afterword‘ or footnote about the illustrations and their modification for the film. By their nature they are not a single homogenous group and they include
both pencil sketches and finished colourwork. But they show a strong filmic imagination and are the more obvious choice fora younger child. Ralph Steadman has made a contemporary connection with lots of the characters. so the White Rabbit becomes a time~obsessed commuter while the Cheshire Cat is a smile-obsessed tv announcer. His graphic imagination is wilder. more zany and sometimes obscure. but always individual. For older children and adults.
A good novel to read aloud or for children of about 7 plus to read to themselves is Sarah, Plain and Tall Patricia Macl.achan (Julia MacRae Books. £4.95). It has a freshness and gentle wit which perhps comes from its being based on a true family story. It is set in America. is very attractively produced and won the American Library Association Newberry Medal. From the same publisher comes The Story at Holly and Ivy, RumerGodden (£6.25). It was first published in Ladies Home Journal which accounts for its pleasing 50's feel in both style and the new illustrations by Barbara Cooney. It spans the period between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with a story about a little girl. attractively written to a well-plotted formula. For approx 7 years plus.
Trevor Johnston picks out good books for square eyes.
So far as the long-distance movie junkie is concerned. film on the page is probably the most acceptable substitute for film on the screen. with cinema literature a ﬂourishing area ofthe publishing scene and the last twelve months throwing up several volumes worthy of a place on anyone‘s bookshelf.
Pride of place goes to one of the finest books ever written by a film-maker about his chosen medium. Michael Powell‘s A Lite in Movies (Heinemann £15.95) is the first volume of his autobiography. charting his career from the days of silent cinema through British B-movies of the Thirties to the great Emeric Pressburger collaborations such as The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp. in a formidable tome that is both a richly exhaustive memoir and a glorious declaration of commitment to film as an artform. Another meditation on the nature of film is Sculpting In Time (Bodley Head £7.95) by Andrei Tarkovsky. one ofthe great artists ofworld cinema. whose film The Sacriﬁce won this year‘s Special Jury Prize at Cannes and will be showing in Scotland early next year. This
collection of essays presents his ideas on the cinema‘s facility for poetry and its powers of spirituality and regeneration in intricate and agile prose (hats off to translator Kitty Hunter Blair). The articulacy of both books make the ramblings ofmany of their counterparts sound like the mewlings of nervous schoolboys.
Books written about film-makers. on the other hand. abound as usual. Michel Ciment's Boorman (Faber £25) won an award from the British Film Institute for its intelligent text and judicious selection ofstills to highlight recurring visual themes in the Boorman canon —r just repackaged. by the way. is the director‘s own diary Money lnto Light (Faber£4.95) on the making of The Emerald Forest. recommended as an entertaining look at the movie industry from the inside. Just as lavish as the (intent volume is Woody Allen: Beyond Words ( Pavillion £12.95) by Robert Benayoun. a long-overdue study ofone of America‘s most consistently impressive directors. Beautifully illustrated with a plethora or photographs and featuring several interviews with its very reticent subject. the book is a treasure to possess. although the definitive book on Allen will probably have to come from the man himself. Unfortunately ()rson Welles never got round to writing his memoirs. so we must content ourselves with Barbara Learning's largely ahtorised biography (Weidenfcld & Nicholson) the fullest account so far ofthat most brilliant failure of careers. though Leaming‘s evident affection for the man allows both his egotism and her reverence to show through a little too often.
Not so with Alexander Walker. whose two books about the British cinema in the Sixties in Hollywood England (I larrap £7.95) and since 1970 in National Heroes (Harrap £6.95) display a trenchant mind and a dry wit in equal quantities and taken together provide what is easily the best assessment of those occasionally dark. sometimes hopeful years of film in Britain. Steven Bach‘s Final Cut (Faber £4.95) takes apart the industry in the US. examining Hollywood‘s big-budget madness as exemplified in the life and eath of Michael Cimino‘s financial fiasco Heaven 's Gate. The in-fighting ofstudio execs and egomania ofthe director make for better reading than many a blockbuster. Speaking ofwhich. a mention for our own Allan Hunter. whose thorough and illuminating biography of Faye Dunaway (W.H. Allen) hit your bookshops earlier this year. How does he do it. we ask?
Finally. the best overall survey of the 1985/86 cinema scene is easily The Film Yearbook (Virgin £7.99) the fifth in the series and just as opinionated and readable as ever. Hopefully it will become a perennial without losing its bite. ('I‘revorJohnston)
48 The List 28 Nov — 11 Dec