Beast Friends Forever! by Robert L Forbes and Ronald Searle

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Beast Friends Forever! by Robert L Forbes and Ronald Searle

Category: Children's Rhymes and Verse
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Delightful illustrations easily surpass the poetry they accompany in this collection of amorous animals.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 80 Date: January 2013
Publisher: Overlook / Duckworth
ISBN: 9780715644034

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We're never far away from spring, when the thoughts of the whole animal kingdom turn to love - or at least, one aspect of it we'd better not mention in a book for the very young such as this is. Skunks need to smell nice, elephants and crickets need to make the right noises to attract a mate, while others can just celebrate their being together in different ways, whether they be real love birds or grizzly bears. The whole wildlife love life is here, in a very chaste and harmless manner.

It's such a pity then that some of the verse does not pass harmlessly past the reader. Try reading these poems out to your young company and you will definitely find your tongue falling over a broken meter, or a rhyming scheme forced on to things to leave a solitary word of the sentence on the next line down. Sometimes the rhyming scheme is very erratic, but mostly the lines are set rigidly to rhyme, and it's often at the expense of the rhythm.

There's also the vocabulary getting in the way of the young reader perusing this on their own (eloquence, two firmaments, the compound verb to pursue out, whatever that means). And with the whole gamut of circumstances and creatures put before me I still failed to find a real audience grabber - the verse held no whimsy or charm I could identify with, while the very young will be wondering why these creatures are doing what they're doing - there might as well be a foreword about the birds and bees included, for whatever anthropomorphic attributes are given to the beasties they are just mating in the long run.

So we are left with the excellent - nay, superb artworks from the late and great Ronald Searle. This, their third collaboration, proves he lost no abilities in his ninth decade. He brings the personal touch (a mouse somewhere to be found in each spread, and his usual haphazard-looking approach) and is the source of by far the greater invention, wit and charm on these pages. Just take my favourite - two iguana girls on the pull - and marvel at the cheek, accuracy and craft.

The book serves the design very well, with every double-page spread being at least fifty percent Searle. Such things sell books - and writing as underwhelming and at times awkward as this is needs all the help it can get at times. I could pick out a couple of successes from Forbes, but on the whole this one fell from the nest at an early stage.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A to Z - The Best Children's Poetry From Agard To Zephaniah by Michael Rosen still does what it says on the tin in brilliant fashion.

Buy Beast Friends Forever! by Robert L Forbes and Ronald Searle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Beast Friends Forever! by Robert L Forbes and Ronald Searle at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Beast Friends Forever! by Robert L Forbes and Ronald Searle at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Beast Friends Forever! by Robert L Forbes and Ronald Searle at Amazon.com.


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