Book by John Agard and Neil Packer (illustrator)

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Book by John Agard and Neil Packer (illustrator)

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A charming and quite poetic 'autobiography' of the friendliest and most enduring manner of mankind's communication.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 9780744544787

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Longlisted for the 2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Meet Book. I'm sure you have many times over, for otherwise you wouldn't be here. We've met well over 10,000 of them on this website over the past few years of our young life. I myself have personally reviewed over 1,000 of them in that time (gulp). Some have been completely enjoyable and spending time with them is like being entertained by a best friend; others have been the equivalent of meeting someone you wouldn't spit on if they were on fire. But even though Book has talked to me in many different ways in that time, he was yet to tell me exclusively of himself. This then is Book as historian, as entertainer and again as friend, as Book gives a summary of his own birth, history and current state of play. And I'm sure you agree he has a lot to be proud of.

From edging out of lucky corners of the world where writing may have first existed in the form of angular marks and tallies on clay, through papyrus then parchment scrolls, to the modern printing methods and beyond, Book tells us how and why he was created. It's a great evolutionary process, where slowly but surely he has become less exclusive, more popular and more cheap to make. Every step along the way has left us with a Book that is handier, more accessible, and more capable of giving us the great variety only Book can. The biggest difference yet may have been the most recent – the digital e-book revolution, but this Book certainly has a lot to say about that. (Let's face it, it's title isn't exactly google search-friendly.)

But whether he's telling us his thoughts as to his proudest or darkest moments, or recapping the quirky side to his history such as Chinese writing on animal bone, he does it all in a first person recollection. This authoritative yet really rather wonderfully poetic form is just right for Book. All the young reader need do is get over the patently unusual first person singular style, beyond which there is no hurdle in understanding, however crafted, well-measured and thought through the script is. A case in point – I've for some reason decided this book is masculine. Book doesn't make such a basic blunder, for he (sorry, IT) is clearly universal.

Agard and his design team have done Book proud in this homage. It's reflective, yet manages to pop in trivia about the derivation of key words in a quiet, pleasant manner. It doesn't have the most linear timeline, but is generally bringing us swiftly and safely through millennia of history to the current times, and throughout resists overwhelming with memories or detail. With many different fonts, box-outs and illustrations it proves Book can be quite a sprightly thing. And at a running time for reading it aloud of 45 minutes, taken leisurely – don't forget, you're in the company of possibly your best friend – you soon can switch allegiance and turn to another Book. This one will definitely whet the appetite for more of the same, while fixing the young philosophical reader with a firm idea all about what s/he may have taken for granted. That will not be the case again after these charming pages.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Children's books about children's literature is not a huge market, unfortunately. For getting some interest in adult books at a young age, we might suggest Charles Dickens: Scenes from an Extraordinary Life by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom.

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Buy Book by John Agard and Neil Packer (illustrator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Book by John Agard and Neil Packer (illustrator) at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Book by John Agard and Neil Packer (illustrator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Book by John Agard and Neil Packer (illustrator) at


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