Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green

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Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Lorraine McDonald
Reviewed by Lorraine McDonald
Summary: With shades of ‘The Shining’ and echoes of classic gothic novels, ‘Seen and not Heard’ is a spooky tale told in verse and pictures. Don’t worry too much about nightmares. The warmth of the characters and the humour of the drawings should mean that everyone still sleeps well after enjoying this entertaining tale.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406346510

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During the day the eight children of Shiverhawk Hall are seen and not heard for they are images captured on canvas. Don’t they look so sweet and good, so well behaved like children should? They certainly look a picture, picked out in the silvery moonlight. As night sets in and all is quiet, only the black cat and a handful of mice are there to see the portraits come to life and step out of their frames. What mischief can these children from across the ages make?

This is a slightly spooky story told with warmth. A picture book, it is probably aimed at slightly older pre-schoolers or infants rather than the very young. Seen and Not Heard avoids cheap shock horror whilst still managing to be atmospheric and ever so lightly sinister – could a tale of children trapped in picture frames ever be anything else? Key to the story are the personalities of those children, hinted at in their portraits then developed as they come to life. There is dog owner Percy Pinksweet who is round of rump and more generous with his toys than he is about sharing his pudding. Then there is the Plumsey family, sister, brother and baby. Though their collars may be stiffly starched, there is nothing stuffy about the way they bounce on beds and graffiti their ancestors’ portrait. Lily and Billy join in with the riot. As for Lila and Vila, the twins with giant bows in their hair and fringes to rival Claudia Winkleman's, well – they are…PERFECT ANGELS. And indeed, so they appear to be as they silently observe the midnight feast, the bedroom rumpus and the wanton vandalism of works of art. Or are they? By her Mona Lisa smile, I suspect Lila has a naughty side – those handprints might be hers and she may have stolen cake. As for Vila, well, maybe she really is just perfect.

The illustrations here are a joy. Cast in moonlight they have a slightly eerie glow. The children, with the exception of the De Villechild twins, are sweet and rounded. Katie May Green rewards the observant reader with some visual jokes. Follow the black cat, the mice and the butterfly as they join the children on the rampage with a tail or a whisker to be found on each page. Study the portraits to spot the subtle differences that appear after sunrise. Look for a familiar face amongst the toys. Slightly more hit and miss is the verse that tells the story. One or two of the rhymes are a bit awkward and some of the type setting doesn’t help matters as phrases are disjointed across lines. It’s not enough to spoil the book though it made for a disconcerting first read aloud.

There’s lots to talk about here from the meaning of the expression ‘seen and not heard’ to the different periods of clothing shown in the portraits. There’s also a lot to imagine – is the hall deserted? How did the children grow up? And what of Lila De Villechild? Like her twin sister was she really, ‘Seen and Not Heard’?

A good choice on a dark and stormy night or for a Halloween read. For more gentle spooks in rhyme try The Everyday Witch by Liz Martinez and Mark Beech.

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Buy Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green at


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