AUTHOR + ILLUSTRATOR: Janet and Alan Ahlberg
PUBLISHED BY: Penguin (Puffin)
I was accused yesterday of reviewing too many out of print books. But I would like to refute that statement: this makes my 3rd out of print book, and, sadly, is the most difficult to find. But I only review out of print books in the vain hopes that someone will reprint them someday. Or that you'll stumble across them at a local library sale, and treasure them as much as I do.
Peek-A-Boo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (oh, they're so wonderful) is another treasure. I honestly don't know what their entire cannon is out of print (except for Each Peach Pear Plum, which is also wonderful). There books are quite simply "filled." The everyday objects and activities of life are magnified and glorified in the most playful way.
Peek-A-Boo, for example, introduces us to a baby:
Here's a little baby
One, two, three
Sits in his high chair
What does he see?
On the facing page is a white page with a circle cut out, and the words PEEK-A-BOO! When we flip the page, we see the scene above:
He sees his mother pouringWe go through the day with Baby, playing Peek-A-Boo (which, quite honestly, is my favorite game ever). And as the day wears on, the family does more and more, and gets more and more tired--which provides ample amusement for the adult reader. A child could easily spend hours soaking up all the details of the pictures (I know I did as a child).
Hot porridge in a bowl
And his father in the doorway
With a bucketful of coal.
But what I love best about the Ahlberg's books and the world they create, is that it is filled with real and good things. Mending and washing, buckets of coal and bonfires, parks and sailboats, sleeping mothers, grandmothers doing the ironing, socks drying over the fire, rose bordered mirrors and golden teddy bears. If we shapes children's imaginations with the books we give them, then we also influence their dreams and hopes. These illustrations show me a good life, and I'm glad I loved them when I was a kid so I can recognize their wisdom now.
(And also, I mean come on: it's PEEK-A-BOO!!!)
UPDATE: I wanted to refine this thought a little. The world that the Ahlbergs portray is not without hardships, but it is real and therefore good. For example, there is the laundry, which shows up in nearly every scene--a long drawn out process of hard work. Still, chores are a part of life and even, when done in the proper spirit a good part of live. Also, this book is set (vaguely) in the war period. There is a bombed out building in the background one scene. But, despite bombs and work, poverty and exhaustion, children play, babies grow, and life goes on. This is the underlying lesson of the Ahlbergs books, and one I am glad to (however subtly) pass on to children.