My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think the Claude series is rapidly turning into one of my top recommendations, regardless of the context. “You like chocolate? Great, read some Claude.” “The weather *is* nice today isn’t it. Read some Claude.” “You want me to sign for that parcel? Only after you read some Claude.”
This series by Alex T Smith is adorable, and it’s going from strength to strength. Just in case you don’t know what the premise is, the eponymous Claude is a dog full of je ne sais quoi. Him and his best friend – Sir Bobblysock, a stripey sock – get into all sorts of adventures. Previous titles have seen them visit the circus, the beach, the city and now they’re in the countryside.
Drawn and coloured in a limited palette of reds, blacks, and whites, this book is glorious. The distinctive colouring shifts, quite brilliantly, to reflect the situation Claude is in at the moment. It’s one of those books that you read very much on a visual level as well. There’s a spread, for example, where a bull goes on a rampage and suddenly the page behind it is coloured in deep angry red. Then Claude lassoos it (amazing) and suddenly we have white space creeping back onto the page in the form of mimicking those ‘speed lines’ you always used to draw to indicate something going fast. It’s very subtle and very cleverly done.
I also love Smith’s drawing style. The central protagonist in this one, Mrs Cowpat (ha!), the farmer, is beautiful. She’s reminiscent of those old pictures of land girls, with her dungarees on and a little red scarf in her hair. There’s a lot of this sort of contextual quality throughout, giving the entire book the feel of being something both old-fashioned and gloriously modern at the same time.
And how can you not fall in love with a book that sees Claude being bored enough to do a concert for all his other friends? His other friends: Dr Chewed Squeakybone, Dame Nibbled-Slippers, Mr Smelly Sock and a toy rabbit named … Keith.