My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The thing about Nosy Crow books is that they, fairly uniformly, have a really high standard of design. It’s almost an unimportant skill, this, because when we read a book, we read a book and we don’t really grade it on how it looks. At least, we don’t do that consciously.
But here’s the thing: when we read,we don’t just read the words. We read everything about it : the colour, the feel, the weight of the paper, the typography,the design, and we don’t realise it, but we do and this sort of stuff matters. It matters because we get signals about the quality of the text inside, and how that has been treated by the publishers. Each book should feel important when it gets published. Each book should matter, because it’s done so well to get to that point. Being published is big, it’s important, and a good looking book sings of that moment.
And Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam : The Spooky School is such a delightful song of a book. It contains three stories in which Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam get into cake based mishaps and solve mysteries. What makes this book work is its awareness of the paragraph break.
(I have always wanted to do that ever since I saw a wonderful book review in Private Eye which did the best paragraph break I have ever seen. Forgive me!)
Almost every page begs to be read a little bit further on and that all centres around the wonderful use of structure in this book. Each paragraph is so very well put together that it delivers a coherent, neat point before leading the reader on. It’s delightfully done and one that speaks of a deep consideration for the needs of the reader. The Spooky School is a book that cares about the reader but also wants to ease them through it. I like that. Care. From the outside to in.
Lenton’s illustrations are delivered in a vibrant limited palette of oranges and whites. It’s a nice thematic restriction for a book with a spooky content and it works well with Lenton’s skill. He doesn’t drown the pages in work but rather lets a strong element of each image stand out, and yet when the text calls for a more detailed illustration, revels in a clean busy line. Does that last note make sense? Imagine a busy pedestrian crossing at the road in the middle of a busy city, a thousand people on the street, traffic lights, noise and cars. Now imagine that the traffic lights aren’t working. Now imagine that they do. That’s the difference, right there. Lenton knows how to work his page and tease out the edges of Corderoy’s sparky, friendly prose.
My thanks to Nosy Crow for the review copy.