Posted by: Sarah Stokes | April 5, 2012

A Book to Make a Big Noise About

Shhh! Sally Grindley & Peter Utton, 1991, London: ABC, hb, 24 pp.

Having mentioned this book in my top five picture books last week, I felt it was time to review Shhh!. Although I can scarcely contain my nerves for fear of not doing it justice here! Also, a quick trawl across the internet informed me that, at last, the book is finally back in print, having been incredibly difficult to get hold of for the past ten or so years. Hooray for Hodder Children’s Books!

So, back to the wonders of my battered old ABC copy. Shhh! engages the reader from the outset, encouraging silent attention as we enter the book’s initial pages, enticingly disguised as a giant’s castle door. The reader is addressed directly throughout the sparce written text, with a mixture of simple commands and observations to aid the reader’s cautious journey through the rooms of the imposing castle. Fold-out pages reveal a giant cat, mouse, hen, all pets of the giant, as well as the giant’s wife, busy preparing an enormous supper for her husband. The giant himself, however, remains eerily absent in the early part of the book.

Children delight in opening the flaps to check that their reading hasn’t disturbed the various characters as they creep by. ‘I think I heard a MIAOW. Look through that door and see if she’s still asleep. She is? Good.’ In this way, a constant dialogue is kept alive between text and reader as the furtive journey unfolds.

Metafictive references abound on every page: ‘If you don’t whisper, you’ll disturb the giant’s hen, who’s busy laying eggs just over the page.’, which I personally find extremely satisfying, as they draw continual attention to the fact that this is, after all, only a story book.

But just look at what powers this story book has! It would be wrong of me to spoil the ending, although another trawl through existing  on-line reviews of the book would suggest that other reviewers do not share my principles …. I think the final page of Shhh! should reveal itself directly to you in all its fabulous surprise and glory. Trust me, it’s well worth the wait!

HT to Hodder Children’s Books for image.

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