Page 45 Review by Stephen
I love this so very much that I made an honest to god professional film about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOy5lqigEI0
It was shot in a single take without autocue (nor indeed any warning that I wouldn't be allowed one) whilst tresspassing in Cumbria. Isn't the scenery special!
Not only has Page 45 long adored Sarah McIntyre's kind-hearted craft, but here she delivers a big fluffy bundle of witty, exuberant joy for Young Readers which also wraps its warm heart around the welcoming of strangers, whoever they are and from wherever they've roamed.
Look, there's a welcoming mat on the cover for just such a purpose as Sarah invites you in for tea, cake, and quite the cacophony! It's going to grow ever so riotous inside, and the stairs are going to take quite the thumping. I love that the carrier pigeon which breaks the big news is dressed like the landed gentry who shoot grouse!
"Guess what!" shouted Piper.
"We have RATS in our flats!"
They really do! And Piper is beyond all containment.
Oh how the young bunnies bounce around any and all flats which open their doors to their din!
"We've got RATS!"
Brick towers tumble, a game of draughts is disabled and someone's stuffed their head right into an upturned saucepan full of spaghetti. You can't really blame them.
Their elder sister Lettuce is the first they encounter. She considers this development and responds with that which is right:
"Hmm... RATS! I've never lived with RATS before...
"We should go and say hi."
Of course they should! So off they all hop down the stairs!
But their next neighbour Vern casts one note of slight caution:
"I don't think rats are very tidy neighbours. We need to make sure they keep the place clean. Let's gather everyone in the building and figure out what to do."
And that seems okaaaaaay... But without giving too much awaaaaaay...
This is the crossroads. This is where excitement, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness begin to descend from "I don't think" and "I am not sure" into accumulated, ill-informed gossip.
Each successive floor reveals itself to be inhabited by animals from all over the globe - like polar bears and great big buffalo bison - and they are all adored by each other now that they are established neighbours. But what of the brand-new, whose put-about reputation precedes them?! First rats are untidy, then they are dirty, then they are stinky and finally they supposedly steal!
The stairs become more crowded, dingier then darker as what began as a welcoming rush turns into a veritable lynch mob, and each time McIntyre adds a new verb until...
"Everyone HOPPED and TROTTED and TOTTERED and PADDED and CLATTERED downstairs..."
... And lastly they tumble, tripped up by their own unnecessary panic, into one chaotic heap on the floor.
But who's going to knock on the door? No one dares!
Now, I've given far more away than I would ordinarily within any review, but my guess is that there are very few Young Readers who'll be reading our blog themselves, so all the secrets will stay surprises for those with wide eyes who will read or be read to. Oh, how this demands to be read aloud like all Reeve & McIntyre books! I adore doing exactly that on Page 45's shop floor, when I present families with any of our Young Readers illustrated books and graphic novels.
I will leave the final reveal to Sarah, but you can rest assured that there will be much contrite and sticky egg on many embarrassed faces.
Sarah is an immigrant herself, you see, from America, so understands how important it is that we all embrace each other's individuality with open arms.
The legendary Will Eisner promoted the same message to adults throughout his career, specifically documenting various communities' comings and goings in 'Dropsie Avenue' contained in A CONTRACT WITH GOD TRILOGY, while YOU BELONG HERE, THE JOURNEY and THE ARRIVAL all spread the same love for all ages.
Before we wind up, there is so much more to recommend this on a visual level. McIntyre has eschewed her usual strident pen lines and primary colours for softer watercolour pencils which are fabulous for bunny fur - but also for a more comforting feel throughout - along with pastel shades (and indeed pastel textures here and there) for a more carefully controlled atmosphere which, as I've said, subtly shifts as events take their course. Wait - no, they don't! I mean, as the characters' trajectory is dictated by their own over-anxious hand-wringing then mutually amplified, increasingly thought-free sensationalism.
There is enormous energy on every page which propels readers through the story while those who would linger will relish exquisite background details like the pigs proclaiming rats to be messy while their own pots and pans pile up in the sink, unwashed.
I loved all the wallpaper and '70s decor. It speaks of the safe, comforting and homely. It also says everything about renting accommodation, and not having enough dosh to redecorate - clever!
There is also a wonderful sense of shared community here and a rich harmony which will be restored. You can sense the rejuvenation of spirits on the penultimate double-page spread where (once again, like the opening rooftop) you can see the light from outside flooding in.
The funny thing is that creators - writers, artists and illustrators - like Sarah McIntyre will have taken months thinking all these things through, weeks structuring the whole, and days deploying their skills on these ideas and each individual page... and we, the readers, simply tear straight through them in nano-seconds because we cannot help but desperately crave reading what happens next! It's their own fault, of course. If these authors weren't so good at what they do, then we wouldn't give a tinker's cuss.
For more Sarah McIntyre and indeed Philip Reeve please see their dedicated section within our Young Readers enclave.
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