Fish Dream of Trees by Axel Scheffler, Frantz Wittkamp and Roger McGough
|Fish Dream of Trees by Axel Scheffler, Frantz Wittkamp and Roger McGough|
|Category: Children's Rhymes and Verse|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A particularly quirky and colourful selection of nonsense verses with their illustrations. It's all a bit hard to know what to make of it, except for its brilliance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 48||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Two Hoots|
|External links: Author's website|
Dragons don't bite – ask them to pose for a photo and they burst into a grin. Owls don't bite you, either – unless it's the one in the zoo cage you thought was friendly. And while we're on that subject, be careful about man-eating plants – they're never friendly given the chance of finding you alone. Such lessons are rife across these pages, in a singularly odd – and oddly fun – selection of four-line verses for the young, of any age.
The name Roger McGough should need no introduction, nor that of the illustrator, Axel Scheffler. The credit that is likely to be new to you is that of the German author and artist, Frantz Wittkamp, who provided the verses for this when it came out in the original German in 2016. Scheffler was on board even then, although has tweaked and/or added to his work for this edition. But that's all I know about the original, bar it having been named for the last full piece here, about the girl catching a lion in the woods – which is why my review has to mention not only the nonsense on the page but my lack of sense as to how it got there.
I like a good nonsense poem, and these are very good – sticking to single ABAB verses in every instance, with no titles (nor even any page numbering) to distract the young reader. They're clear, they're daft, and yet they're daft and nonsense and absurd in the right way, as opposed to the daft and stupid and wonky for the sheer sake of it. But I am left wondering just how they got that way. What with the illustrations being so fun – clear and daft yet sensible, yet again – it seems a couple of the verses could have been responding to those and not to the original poem, hence the credit perhaps: adapted by as opposed to translated by. Our English title verse may be a case in point – who's to say whether the original had the same reflective bent as we get? There's a spread here of people in a sea, and the poem seems to be asking what we're asking – what are they doing there? – and not knowing the answer when the original may have done.
This is just pedantry, really – I love the woman crying as a squirrel rows a boat away from the rock she sits upon, and whether the verse we get is the actual Wittkamp narrative or not is probably neither here nor there. There are multiple instances of the absurd here that is fun and enjoyable, and whether it's a McGough original or a much wrestled-with translation crammed into just a few clever feet of verse doesn't matter. What does matter is that this wonderful book is silly, bright fun, and comes highly recommended.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
If you want more McGough, then 80 is his most recent 'selected works'.
You can read more book reviews or buy Fish Dream of Trees by Axel Scheffler, Frantz Wittkamp and Roger McGough at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Fish Dream of Trees by Axel Scheffler, Frantz Wittkamp and Roger McGough at Amazon.com.
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