Friday 1 June 2012

Mick Inkpen's Kipper Series

This week at the library, Daughter discovered Kipper, by Mark Inkpen.

In particular, she singled out the books Castle and Opposites, of the Kipper Storyboard and First Kipper series respectively.

Personally, I'm a bit undecided about Kipper. And Wibbly Pig... And most of Mick Inkpen's creations. I can appreciate the illustrations - clean, colourful without being garish and simply put, adorable - but I find the stories fairly insipid. Especially in comparison to things like Norman - the perfection that all other books in our house must aspire to!

Daughter seemed to like these two books well-enough though. I'm fairly certain she doesn't care about driving narrative just yet, so turning the pages and enjoying the beautiful pictures seemed to be entertainment enough. She did not ask me to repeat them though, quickly returning to her favourite slug and his silly shell.

I'd only really recommend these for very young children, if I'm honest. I feel that Daughter is on the cusp of being too big to appreciate them and she's only 13 months old. They're lovely to look at, and I wouldn't mind having some of Mr Inkpen's artwork up on the nursery walls, but as an introduction into books and passionate story telling, they fall a bit flat.

There seems to be a common misconception that children's books need to be friendly and bland, yet when you look at some classic tales for younger children, you find themes - and vocabulary - which modern publishers would balk at. Henry gets bricked up in a tunnel during one of the Thomas the Tank engine stories, whilst Beatrix Potter frequently deals with the possibility that her main characters might get eaten. To my mind, books should educate, rather than patronise, and though Henry's treatment may seem harsh, it teaches consequence, just as Peter's fear of Mr MacGregor touches on the food chain and animals as meat.

Kipper, however, simply built a sand castle and couldn't decide what to put on top (though I suppose his lolly-stick flag might inspire a spate of young upcyclers). Also, I couldn't really see anywhere further to go with the book once we'd read it, as any follow-up activities I could think of were too old for the audience of such a simplistic text. Normally, when reading Norman gets to be a little much, we go to look for slugs and snails in the garden, or when we've finished The Odd Egg we go to look at the ducks and talk about what they're doing. Short of going out to buy a sandpit, attempting to get a small child (who insists on feeding herself) to ingest an ice-lolly or making flags with paints that will likely get eaten, there wasn't really any further I could take the book. All of the above would be great ways to 'interact' with the story, but not for someone so young. Should children old enough to be doing this sort of activity read the book, I'm not sure they'd be inspired enough to want to take part.

In short, a fine little read for an afternoon, but nothing sparkling. One  to get from the library and not the book shop.

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