I’m a big fan of bedtime and stories. I’m also a big fan of clever illustration. And reading big words about small books.
A firm favourite in our house right now is Gorilla. It’s a fairly simple story, Daughter loves Dad, Dad works too hard, never has time for Daughter, Daughter loves gorillas, Daughter feels distanced from Dad, has a birthday present of a toy gorilla that she rejects and falls asleep. Overnight, the gorilla grows and takes her on an adventure.
There are some great touches in the book, for example the image below is challenging. It shows Hannah eating her tea, probably a sandwich, alone. With only a television for company. The map of Africa makes reference to the home of gorillas. The weird shapes on the wall look quite terrifying (if you’re young). There’s bats and strange weird skull shapes, some weird pterodactyl like animal. It all looks very Victorian “darkest Africa”.
Before doing a bit of reading around on this (i.e. 5 minutes with google scholar), I’d never noticed the transformative effect the light from the television has. It manages to illuminate the corner of the room Hannah is in, and reveals the wallpaper in “a different light”. As you can see, there are more comfortable images of butterflies and toadstools (the typical story book representation of a fly agaric it seems) in the viewing area the television highlights.
I suppose there is another way to look at this image of Hannah in the light of the television; rather than television being the transformative device, it’s Hannah and her world and thoughts of gorillas bring light and life into a strange house apparently full of strange shapes.
I didn’t really notice the brightness in that image, there’s such a sense of gloom and murk and general oppression.
I find two of the images in the book particularly bleak.
With this one, everything is straight, in line and the room is tidy and clean. Fastidious even. I quite like the kitchen colour scheme, and didn’t draw the parallels with the framing of the picture being very like the framing of a cell/zoo cage.
However, the tea towel (right) and kitchen accessories (left) have similar bar patterns to the bars the orang-utan and the chimpanzee are drawn behind later on. The way both of these animals are illustrated over 2 pages replicates the spatial arrangement of the tea towel and kitchen accessories.
Hannah’s Dad doesn’t look particularly happy either. Where’s his partner?
This image really dates the book, look at the furniture being used, look at the lack of a computer. Whatever it is Hannah’s Dad does, it requires a desk in the corner of the room. The lighting in this illustration shows that Hannah is really quite separate from her Dad. There’s a box of light that surrounds her, while her Dad is in the dark. Her shadow doesn’t reach across the gap either.
However, it’s not all gloom, doom, despondency, and dread of fathers.
Hannah goes to bed, where she dreams she goes to the Zoo with
her Dad her toy gorilla. The colour palette has changed, even the mugs are warm. The colour pattern reminds me of these blue and white mugs: .
The gorilla has plenty of bananas and Hannah has the perfect fantasy cafe feed. There’s cake, ice cream, burger, chips, tomato sauce, what looks like blancmange.
Finally, there’s this image.
There’s so much that I like about this image, the hair and the depth of colour (and the heavy fringe) are incredible.
Another aspect I’m particularly impressed by is the use of the observer perspective. I know, it’s the right thing to use, there’s a story of someone else and you’re watching/reading it. But the concept of different perspectives in memory recall (think about an event in your life, are you watching it through your eyes (first person) or can you see the back of your head (third person)?) is particularly interesting.
This article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784183/ suggests there’s a link between the age of a memory and the perspective it’s viewed from.
Importantly, the current investigation highlights the robustness of the relationship between perspective and memory age. Regardless of the method used, remote memories were rated as more third-person perspective and less first-person perspective compared to recent memories
Which gives another interpretation of the story presented. We’re seeing Hannah remember her toy gorilla and her Dad.
Big words about this small book in particular:
Stuff about perspective and memory recall
And to complete the circle, I did laps of Regent’s Park on Wednesday. There’s a point where you pass the ZSL, on one of the laps I saw a van delivering fruit and veg to the zoo. It made me think of the primates.