Bedtime stories with Edie is a time I cherish. A final few minutes together to fill her mind and let her imagination run, before she drifts off to visit the weird and wonderful world her loony head takes her (err, Paddington Bear eating cupcakes with Rapunzel in Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom was her last dream – bonkers). But to be honest, some of the books (despite possessing a library a small town would be proud of) can be a little tiresome/boring/crap for me, which might be linked to the huge number of times I’ve read them. So it goes without saying that I’m always on the lookout for new publications.
One author who we, like the rest of the world, love and are more and happy to regularly revisit though, is Julia Donaldson. Ok, she’s released some not so great ones (Princess Mirror-Belle anyone?), but The Gruffalo is probably the best children’s book of our time. Then there’s the loveable Stick Man, Room on a Broom, A Squash and a Squeeze, the list goes on and on and on. One of Edie’s favourites is Zog. I can’t say it’s one of mine, but as I said, bedtime stories are a special time and at the end of the day (geddit?), I want her to go to bed happy. So when I recently learnt that Zog and the Flying Doctors was being published, I promised Edie I’d get it for her. And so I did. Today in fact. And here’s what I thought…
As you’d expect, we pick up where we left off, with Zog, Princess Pearl and Gaddabout flying from one apparent medical emergency to the next. There’s a twist midway which gives the story some legs and then as with many of Donaldson books, we revisit earlier incidents to reach a happy ending.
Obviously I don’t want to reveal too much about the story as I know you’ll be DYING to read it yourself, but while I did enjoy it, I’m not sure it’s as good as the original. That said, it still stands up against most other children’s picture books out there and as ever, her rhyme is in a league above everyone else’s. It might need another read (I’m sure I’ll read it to Edie tomorrow evening), but Zog seemed to have taken bit of a backseat in the plot. There’s also a repeated rhyme which I thought would be of some significance to the story, but upon finishing the book, there seemed little point to it. Minor issues and nothing new when it comes to other children’s authors, but with Donaldson, we tend to expect perfection. But the story is good and the images it crafts are captivating, which let’s face it is more than enough for a short picture book before bed (grated unicorn horn, cheese and slime… what child won’t delight in that).
The illustrations from Axel Scheffler are exactly as you’d expect, offering a pleasing familiarity that’s all part of the charm of this killer partnership’s catalogue. Trying to find the hidden Gruffalo amongst the scene of dragons, knights, princesses and castles, took a little longer than usual (panic!), but the ritual of doing so offers a little extra fun before bed - something, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler have absolutely nailed. Ok, so this book doesn’t quite match up to her best titles, but there’s enough here to ensure we’ll revisit it, time and time again, just like the rest of her stories.