The debut title from Beast In Show Books, this picture book promises great things. Written and illustrated by Rob Jones, it tells the story of Bernard a ‘misunderstood wild hound’ who just wants to eat strawberry jam.
Told in a lovely and rather powerful mixture of un-bordered images and text mingling together on the page, we learn how ‘Up on the moors past the mist and the fog’ is where Bernard lives – ‘Howling away was a big scary dog’. Hear that language? It’s edible, really. That richness around howling and the precise beats of big – scary – dog. Lovely.
As we get into the book, we start to see some glorious stuff: ‘the people of the village were scared of this hound’ page is lovely. It’s the meat of this book, that way the text is almost roaring off the page. See that way the speech bubble comes out of the chimneys? Perfect. You can almost hear the villagers saying it.
We go on to learn just how terrifying this Bernard is: “One of his paws was as big as your head” (And if you’re reading this out loud, doesn’t that just beg for interaction? Love it)
(A quick sidebar: apologies for the oddness of some of these photos. My camera died so hello laptop and impromptu shots of window!)
But then we learn that Bernard likes JAM and it’s all OKAY! Hurrah! But wait, there’s a little sting in this tale (tail? ha) because Bernard likes Jam so much that you have to “lock up your fridges” and “block up your doors”
Because if you don’t …
The style of this book is a genuine delight but it *is* quite scary at points. I loved it but I’m conscious that some of the illustrations border on what I may imagine to be unnerving for the more sensitive child so I would advise a quick study of it beforehand to decide the best time for sharing. Personally I think this book demands to be shared at something like a spooky sleepover or party where everyone can shriek and run around and yell along with the story – the vitality of this text is unmistakable and should be capitalised upon.
‘Bernard’ is an intense pleasure, vivid and vital and exuberant, and my thanks to Beast In Show Books for letting me have a look,.