Sunday, 2 October 2011

REVIEW: Animal Tales by Terry Jones and Michael Foreman

Animal Tales by Terry Jones, illustrated by Michael Foreman 

If you like to spend your day sending around funny pictures of animals to your friends.

Or if you find the idea of a cat wearing clothes or being called a person’s name, like ‘Simon’, quite hilarious.

Or if your favourite Monty Python quote is ‘She turned me into a newt!! … I got better’, then you will like Animal Tales.

Animal Tales is a collection of short stories on subjects such as a dog who struggles to be taken seriously as a doctor, a crocodile who just can't seem to get a job and an elephant who wants to be wearing his best trousers when he meets the queen. Each of these characters are rendered spendidly by the rather legendary Michael Foreman.

The book has been nominated for Booktrust's Roald Dahl Funny Prize and rightly so. Because it is very funny. It is very hard to explain why something is funny other than to say 'While I was reading it, I laughed'. I would describe the type of comedy as silly characters doing silly things while being animals. It is the sort of humour that is not exclusive to children or to adults but the kind that goes across all ages - like Terry Jones' Pythoning or, to use a more modern example, the Mighty Boosh. Although Old Gregg's downstairs mix-up is probably not the stuff of children's books. And perhaps the crack fox is a tad unsuitable. But you take my point. 

My particular favourite animal was the Disarmadillo, who tries to put off predators by pretending to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. When they don't believe him (he doesn't have red shoes), he saves time by just climbing into the predator's mouth and waiting to be eaten. 

All in all, this book is furry, furry good... *Awaits Roald Dahl Funny Prize nomination in the post*

*Still awaiting*

While I'm awaiting, here are the best animals in books:

1. Mr and Mrs Beaver in Narnia

I read a feature in the Times recently about movie love stories and Caitlin Moran, rather than looking to painful, sad Brief Encounter love or intense, angry Twilight love, cited Mr and Mrs Beaver as her ideal vision of love - utterly comfortable and happy in their dam. Until some wolves come and smash it up, obviously. But until the wolves come, I agree with Caitlin. Love should be comfy, undramatic and making fun of each other for things like bringing your sewing machine with you when fleeing the White Witch.

2. Boswell in John Connolly's Samuel Johnson series

Boswell is Samuel Johnson's faithful daschund. He is wise, patient and loyal - helping Samuel all the way as he battles a demon and sticking by his side when he is dragged through a portal into Hell. He also divides the world into 'things that are good to eat' and 'things that are not good to eat', which is very sensible.  

3. Angus in Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging

Angus is a half-scottish wildcat, half-tabby belonging to Georgia Nicolson. He has a tendency of hearing a call of the wild and savaging everything in sight. But he is a loyal friend to Georgia and has a sensitive side - he loves the pedigree cat next door, Naomi, and is often found licking her bottom. Their son, Cross-Eyed  Gordy, does that thing cats do when they stick their tongue out just a bit.

4. Hector the pig in Polly Dunbar’s Tilly and Friends series

Because of this picture when Tilly asks if Hector has seen Pru the hen's lost handbag:

5. Plop (AKA the Owl who was Afraid of the Dark)

Plop is awesome. I had the audiobook of this as a child. Every child should listen to it whether they are afraid of the dark, love the dark or like hearing the word 'plop'.

6. The penguin in Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

Not that I like to get up early on Christmas morning and watch children’s TV and still be a child (I DO), but last Christmas I found myself up rather early watching children's TV and saw the animation of Oliver Jeffers' book.


I wish there was a penguin who would be friends with me. I would probably give up all my real friends for it. None of my real friends have sailed with me in an umbrella around the South Pole. 

Speaking of weeping, be VERY excited for tomorrow's guest post from Catnip editor extraordinaire, Non Pratt, which is titled 'Books that Broke my Heart' 

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