Saturday, January 21, 2017

Favourite book of 2016

Snark: Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock ... and its tragic aftermath by David Elliot after Lewis Carroll (Otago University Press)

 Every now and then comes along a book with a story that is totally original complemented with outstanding artwork - David Eliot's 'Snark' is such a book. David's obviously been curious for a long while about why author Lewis Carroll set two stories in the one setting. His mind played around with scenarios and as does a creative mind came up with a theory of his own and recreated making it so real many will believe it to be true.

David begins with the premise that a journal - believed to be the journal of Boots on the fateful journey to snare a snark - has only just been discovered. The narrator - purchases the journal at an auction and has it published to reveal to the world that Lewis Carroll's two poems are based on truth. David's gone to the extent of recreating the contents of the hatbox; a journal, hat, and antique cloth - sewed and crafted by David's sister Karen Eliot and friend Simone Montgomery. The aged journal is photographed (by Alan Dove) and produced as evidence of its authenticity and extensive notes provide more light on the outrageous props in the story.

Illustrators who are also writers will often downplay their writing, but David's writing is just as wonderful as the illustrations. He's captured just the right tone and intention of Lewis Carroll's nonsense characters and their quest. David sets the scene of how the thoroughly incompetent crew came together, the lecture, train ride, setting off in the Bristol, the escapades on board the ship, and the landing - leading us right up to the beginning of the poem The Hunting of the Snark. Then he fills in the story between the two poems.  Boots sets off to find Baker; encountering beasts, strange plants and mysterious towers, which sets the scene for Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky poem. Afterwards we're treated to more details of the adventure and explanation of the objects in the two poems.

David's illustrations fill every page; pencil sketches of which many are coloured in watercolours. The expression of the characters and the way they stand/sit/lie are drawn are wonderfully funny. David has a great talent for bringing out the humour in his artwork.

This is a collector's piece. For people who love books, and kids who love fantasy stories. It's a book that you'll revisit time and time again and keep forever.

DAVID ELLIOT is an author and illustrator of children’s books, based in Port Chalmers, Dunedin. He has won many awards for his work, including New Zealand Post Children’s Book of the Year in 2011 (with Margaret Mahy) for The Moon & Farmer McPhee. Pigtails the Pirate won Best Picture Book in the 2003 awards. As well as writing and illustrating his own books, David has illustrated numerous books by others, including New Zealand authors Joy Cowley, Jack Lasenby and Margaret Mahy;
UK writer Brian Jacques (the Redwall series), and US writers T.A. Barron (Great Tree of Avalon series) and John Flanagan (Ranger’s Apprentice and The Brotherband Chronicles). Henry’s Map was selected by the prestigious School Library Journal in the US for its Best Books list in 2013. In 2011 David received the inaugural Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award, and in 2014 the Storylines Margaret Mahy Award.

Publication details

Jacketed hardback, full colour, 250 x 285mm, 208 pages, ISBN 978 1 877578 94 6, $59.95
November 2016

Buy from Otago University Press
RRP $59.95

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