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Illustrations squashed in this re-issue
on January 15, 2014
Ten classic Don Freeman stories, one unpublished experiment, and a biography of the writer.
Well, I foolishly thought I was going to get these 10 fun classic stories in their entirety all in one big book. While the text is not abridged, the illustrations are. Each of the stories is collapsed by several pages. While some pages are as originally designed by Don Freeman, most of the illustrations that used to fill half a page in original editions are, in this collection, reduced (shrunk) down to vignettes amidst a lot of text. If I am not mistaken, some of the illustrations are also missing (as in Fly High, Fly Low)
I feel this is wrong, and I would wager money that Freeman himself would never have approved this shrinking, never let this book go to print in its current format.
These stories are intended to be read to very young children, from, say, age 2 to 6 or 7. The illustrations are so important to kids, and the layout of one large illustration per page or per facing pages is part and parcel of the dynamic of reading aloud to a child.
The child sees the illustration that goes with the text being read to him. That is the correct way to let a children's storybook unfold. This book, with its squashed-together and snrunken-down pictures, doesn't allow the story to unfold with the illustrations.
I mean, would you fast-forward scenes in a movie while listening to dialog and soundtrack in real time? Of course not. So this collection's irritating format reveals in illustrations visible on the pages far too much info, way too far ahead in the plot, for the narrative the child is hearing.
Freeman was a great story teller and, like any excellent graphic novel or cinematic work, suspense and interest was created with the timing of what is seen against what is read. Some of Freeman's most dramatic imagery (cop blows his whistle at the pigeon Sid - a huge image in Freeman's intended version of Fly High Fly Low, or the boy Thayer discovering Beady Bear sitting in a cave) lose all their impact by being reduced to a tiny picture that the child is going to see on the vast crowded page while mom, dad, or babysitter is reading from way back on the part about Sid getting stuck at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge in a fog bank, or the part in Beady Bear about running away with the evening papers. It's ridiculous and the stories lose much impact as a result.
I felt really cheated. I didn't get 11 books in one. I got a crappy version of each one. Shame on Viking / Penguin!