Review: The Jasmine Sneeze by Nadine Kaadan

Myth and reality intermingle in a refreshing representation of Damascus.

Publication date: 11th April 2016
Publisher: Lantana Publishing

The Jasmine Sneeze is a fantastically vibrant read which takes the reader through a world of senses, accompanied by a comical cat. Sauntering through the city of Damascus, the reader follows Haroun on his quest to appease the Jasmine Spirit.

I haven’t read such a satisfying picture book in a while. The story flows perfectly and has just the right balance of conflict and character progression. Haroun is thoroughly likeable – despite being a bit of a grump when it comes to jasmine – and the Jasmine spirit is portray wonderfully. She has a childlike quality, both quick to anger and quick to forgive. A real joy to follow.

The illustrations are mesmerising, with bright block colours and complementary shades. Kaadan creates a magical landscape and brings Damascus to life. Haroun is adorable and humorous, and you can almost smell the jasmine. The only thing I might note, is that the font can be distracting: a simple sans serif which can seem incongruous in its colourful surroundings.

I recommend this as a wonderful feel-good book. It cannot fail to entertain readers of all ages and genders. There are quite a few words, so it might not be perfect for very early readers, but it can easily be read by more confident children or with an adult. All in all, definitely a book worth owning.

Review: Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings by Edward McLachlan

A dive into the world of childhood drawings.

Publication date: 17th February 2016
Publisher: Dover Publications

Opening this beautiful book, one can immediately see how Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings was brought to life on screen in the seventies. It takes such a simple premise – drawings that come alive – and executes it perfectly. This new edition of a classic serves as a wonderful compilation and demonstrates McLachlan’s timeless storytelling.

The four stories included in the edition display a range of adventures, where Simon both creates the conflict and neutralises it. This is a positive format, if insular, and highlights the power of imagination that the book has at its heart. McLachlan’s writing is pithy and effective, resulting in excellent prose to complement his drawings.

The illustrations are a wonderful combination of professional and childish, and gives the impression of mixed media. The ‘Drawings’ are expertly create to replicate childish technique, whilst retaining definite recognisability, and the Land of Chalk Drawings has been created with the classic technique of scratching through black crayon to reveal a layer of colour. This is not only a familiar technique that children will be able to gleefully identify, it achieves an impressive result whilst retaining characteristic simplicity.

I recommend this as a welcome addition to any home library, as a beautifully creative work in a quality edition. Don’t let the fact that these stories were first written half a century ago put you off, they are certainly not dated and remain a joy to read.