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Fergus Barnaby Goes on Holiday Paperback – 14 Jun 2018
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This is a book with immediate appeal - the big portrait format and the gorgeous illustration of a house and its inhabitants are super. (Sarah Brew Parents in Touch)
Fergus Barnaby and his parents are off on holiday in this wonderfully entertaining debut picture book!See all Product description
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‘Fergus Barnaby Goes on Holiday’ by David Barrow is an impressive book on more than one level. Simply in size it catches the eye. To represent the four story New York style apartment block that Fergus lives in, Barrow has created a long and thin hardback book. The effect is particularly good when you get a glimpse of all four floors at once. The illustrations take on a Wes Anderson like quality as you can see what all the different characters are getting up to at the same time. There is plenty to see all over the pages and this alone will entertain a curious child for some time.
The unique selling point is backed up elsewhere with a sense of quality. The hardback of this book is impressively made – an embossed front cover, quality paper and painstakingly drawn images. Barrow’s pictures have a watercolour feel to them and he uses different shades to represent the different floors. Therefore a child knows where they are by what colour the surroundings happen to be.
In many ways ‘Fergus’ is a glorious book and any child would love to get a hold of it and most adults will appreciate the time and effort gone into making such an impressive book. Therefore, for all the dedication on show in terms of build and style, it is a shame that the story falls a little flat. It almost feels like the premise for the illustrations were designed first and the story retrofitted to work. There is lots of going up and down stairs to highlight the elongated nature of the pages, but even with the fun surprise at the end, the story is still not the best. Thankfully, there is enough enjoyment in just viewing the pages themselves that even if the story is somewhat bland, it does not make the book unreadable, just not the absolute classic it could have been.
One plus for some parents may be the block-of-flats setting – so many children’s stories imply that every child lives in a semi with a big garden.
There’s a fair amount of repetition in the narrative approach, but as my wife reminded me kids love this and it helps to consolidate the idea of sequencing.
The illustrations are superb - brightly coloured with loads of detail for the child to look at. Even the pictures on the walls are worth investigating. The vocabulary is simple and suitably repetitive so is ideal for early readers. The numbering of the floors will also help with ordinal numbers.
The book is obviously American so their floor numbering is different from UK - their first floor being our ground floor. However I don't think this should prove much of a problem. After we had gone through the book I explained that in some places they number their floor differently and he seemed to take this on board.
The story itself is slight, though there is a nice little joke at the end. The other slight niggle is that it uses American-style floor numbering, so Fergus and his family live on the first floor rather than the ground floor. Having said that I can understand why the author has used that system, because the book is really about first, second, third and fourth and getting that concept of numbering across. So, Fergus lives on the first floor, Fred lives on the second etc. and this is reinforced throughout the story as Fergus visits the various people in the building to collect his things.
The painted illustrations are gorgeous to look at, with the split picture pages being particularly effective - you get to see what each of the various characters are doing in their flats - there is an example image on the product page.
It is tall (over 35cm) so may not fit nicely upright on all bookcases, but this works really well with the illustrations to give a sense of height to the building. At just over £12 for the hardback, you may prefer to buy in paperback instead.
Overall - it's a nice picture book, that would make a lovely present.
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