These two little books arrived today and I have to say they have been the highlight of my week so far. I had seen them offered by the publisher, the rather splendid V&A Publishing, and I am sure they described the illustrator (and author) Jack Townend as being from the Bradford area. However, I have been Googling him ever since and can find very few details (not even from arty friends who are proper Bradfordians rather than southern incomers like me….) beyond those given in the book blurb. Mind you being elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and tutoring Shirley Hughes are obviously not trifling details!
A Story about Ducks is the tale of some rather adventurous waterfowl who find that the world beyond their river has both pleasures (raspberry buns and roller-coasters) and perils (the threat of being eaten for Christmas dinner). Luckily, spoiler alert, they manage to escape and, I feel, they return home with a much greater appreciation of their peaceful river home. The illustrations are absolutely charming lithographs which manage to convey huge amounts of duckish personality with a minimal amount of detail. The Railway ABC is even lovelier to my mind (possibly because it is pure charm without the threat of wholesale duck slaughter) with a fairly simple rhyming story – ending up at the zoo, of course – and more gorgeous illustrations. The high point of the pictures for me are the Viaduct (which is quite reminiscent of Thornton Viaduct) and the crossing which looks like it could be almost anywhere in the Dales.
Both books are wonderfully old-fashioned – they make Thomas the Tank Engine look quite new-fangled – and should go down well with small children, their parents and grandparents. I shall be passing these on to young Sophie – I think she will enjoy the ducks and her Daddy will appreciate the trains….