Tuesday 16 January 2018

Review: Children's fiction: The Great Explorer by Chris Judge

Dubliner Chris Judge won an Irish Book Award last year for his debut picture book, The Lonely Beast, and was recently nominated for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. Since then he's produced an alphabet app for children, Alphabeast and his second picture book, The Great Explorer. Inspired by the Arctic and Antarctic explorers of the 19th century, it's a charming tale of one young boy's quest to rescue his father.

When Tom's Dad, a famous explorer goes missing somewhere near the North Pole, Tom sets out to find him, encountering icebergs, freezing blizzards and giant polar animals along the way.

The book is expertly laid out, the illustrations simple yet stylish and expertly coloured, with Tom's bright red hat and gloves a sharp contrast against the icy blues of the Arctic landscape. When it comes to design Judge is world class, and looks set to be Ireland's answer to Dick Bruna of the Miffy books fame. David Mackintosh is another exciting picture book talent, born in Belfast and now living in London. His new book, The Frank Show, tells the story of a boy who has to bring a family member into school for a 'show and tell'. Unfortunately the only person available is his eccentric grandad, Frank, and the boy is horrified. But Frank, with his army tales, his tattoo and the shrapnel lodged in his elbow is a surprise hit.

This is a strong, vivid and touching story with wonderfully loose, expressive artwork. Mackintosh has also been nominated for the Greenaway, along with Judge, Oliver Jeffers, Chris Haughton and Kevin Waldron. And Disney has just commissioned Brown Bag Films to turn Niamh Sharkey's Hugglemonsters into a pre-school series. It is truly a golden age for Irish illustration.

Sarah Webb

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