The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda

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The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda

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Category: Emerging Readers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: The Liszts love lists in this gorgeously illustrated children's book that may miss the audience it is supposed to be aimed at.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 40 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Anderson Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781783445158

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Longlisted for the 2018 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

When you read enough children's books you start to be able to pick up patterns in the genre. There are books that are aimed at the child alone and alienate the adult and there are those that cater for both. Perhaps the oddest grouping is those children's books that are seemingly designed for adults to enjoy and do not appeal to children.

'The Liszts' are a family of obsessive list makers. They write down everything in list form. So obsessed with lists are they that they have stopped seeing the world around them. When a stranger comes to visit, rather than invite him in, they carry on with their lists. It is up to this stranger and the youngest member of the Liszt family to actually do something on the lists, rather than just creating more of them.

The idea behind The Liszts should work as a children's book as it is all about paying attention to what is around you and not just concentrating on one thing. In this day and age of tablet computing it is not too far a reach to see that children should look up once in a while and enjoy the world outside their pad. Therefore, at the centre of events, this book has something worthwhile to tell, but why Maclear went about it the way is strange to say the least.

The style of The Liszts has more than a touch of the Wes Andersons about it and in particular his film The Royal Tenenbaums. Each characters is introduced surrounded by their interests and the images almost feel like a still from an Anderson film. What is unique to this book is Júlia Sardà's art style. Each page is jam packed with things to look at all in glorious colour and with a unique style. But is this actually appealing to the audience?

As an adult I can appreciate the look and feel of this book. The hardback is exquisite and the drawings are magnificent, but the surface is only part of what a children's book should be. Whilst Sardà has done a wonderful job realising Maclear's vision, it is the author who confuses things. The moral of the story is a little garbled. You don't really know why the stranger came and you don't really feel that the family have learnt much from the adventure.

There is an also an issue with which child should read the book. The text is quite sparse so would traditionally appeal to the very early emerging reader, but the dark look and slightly confused story means that only an older child would be able to pick up on the subtleties to understand what is happening, although they may find the book has too few words. The Liszts is the type of book that a good meaning parent would buy a child thinking it looks fantastic, but is lacks the charm and brightness that most children like from their books. Perhaps this is truly a children's book written for adults?

Anderson Press specialise in creating some of the nicest looking children's books, but they can have more style of substance The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat and Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo are such examples.

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Buy The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda at


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