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Jonathan and Martha Hardcover – April 30, 2012
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"Jonathan & Martha is just the kind of book I am always on the hunt for: gorgeous illustrations. Check. Simple narrative. Check. Interesting designs. Check. Thick pages that are easy for little fingers to navigate. Check." - Coos and Ahhs
"Readers. . .will be drawn in by the growing affection between this pair." - Publishers Weekly
"Cleverly told . .A few pages include die-cut elements that will intrigue viewers while furthering the story. Horacek's typically bold watercolor and crayon illustrations are cheerful and appealing. A great choice for preschool story-times on friendship, sharing, or Valentine's Day (or worms!). - Library Journal
"This book's beautifully embossed cover and thick paper stock set the tone for rich the illustrations and clever story. . .Horacek may not be a household name, but he's published over twenty-five children's books and will be a happy discovery for any book-loving child." - San Francisco Book Review
About the Author
Described as `the thinking tot's Eric Carle' Petr Horacek was born in the Czech Republic and studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Prague. His first books, Strawberries are Red and What is Black and White?, received the Books for Children Newcomer Award 2001 - the last recipient of this award. Since then he has written and illustrated numerous books and received many awards, including Picture Book of the Year 2008 in Holland for A New House for Mouse. Silly Suzy Goose was also on the 10 book shortlist of the award. A New House for Mouse has also been selected for the 2008 Book Start pack which will distribute 150,000 copies to new parents throughout the U.K. Butterfly, Butterfly was listed first in the Sunday Times list of summer reading in the 0-3 category, July 1st 2007.
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When we meet our heroes, Jonathan and Martha are two lonely worms living on either side of a large pear tree. One day a magnificently sized green pear falls to the ground. Unaware of the others' presence, the two eat their way into a fast acquaintance. They immediately set about fighting one another, only to find that their tails are now inextricably linked. Forced to share, the two discover the pleasure of enjoying food, large and small, together. And when a hungry birdie finds a fast (and mildly painful) way of separating them, they now like sharing so much that they're willing to keep on doing it. Tangled tails or no.
How often do you pet the pages of your picture books? I'm not talking about those tactile board books with their fur and scale elements. No, I mean beautifully crafted picture books where the very paper feels like it could stand up to wind, rain and storm. Books where part of the joy is in running your fingertips over the raised thick illustrations on the book jacket (a pleasure sadly lost to any library system that protects those jackets with plastic covers). Phaidon has pulled out all the stops with this little British import, lavishing their title with thick papers, beautiful die-cuts, covers that beg to be touched, and enough colors to pop out an eye or two.
All that designy stuff aside (and, let's admit it, that's just the stuff that gets adults shopping in museum gift shops excited rather than children) there's a ton of kid appeal to be found here. I have two words for you: worm headlock. Now tell me you're not interested in seeing that. The book itself looks like it was created in the Eric Carle vein, with beautiful painted sections found alongside parts that may or may not be computer generated (on Horacek's artistic style the book remains mum). Getting right down to the characters of Jonathan and Martha themselves, I found myself hugely pleased that Horacek chose to make them almost physically identical. Many's the artist who would have felt obligated to make clear Martha's femininity with some kind of bow or some long overwrought eyelashes. Part of the charm of the story, though, is the fact that the two worms are pretty much identical (Jonathan's a touch longer in the tail). Feminizing details would be at odds here.
And did I happen to mention that it reads aloud well? It's a big book, you see, weighing at around 9" x 9". That means it really pops when you read it in a storytime. When you hold it high, a room full of children can make out the details perfectly. And as anyone with any readaloud experience will tell you, die-cuts are a reader's best friend. It doesn't hurt matters any that the words work just splendidly as well. I remember a couple of years ago when Horacek's "Silly Suzy Goose" was brought to the States and readers were split into two factions. On the one hand you had the folks who thought it was a gift of a readaloud destined for storytime greatness. On the other hand there were a lot of people (present company included) driven positively mad by some of the phrases in the book. No such problems exist here. The writing is incredibly simple and straightforward, punctuated occasionally by a little "Ouch!" on occasion. There's not a child alive who could watch that ginormous hungry bird and not feel some twinge of fear for the fate of our tangled twosome.
Lots of other picture books come to mind when I read this book. The die-cuts evoke "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" while the idea of two enemies stuck together so that they become friends is akin to Randy Cecil's beautifully twisted "Horsefly and Honeybee". "Jonathan & Martha" is clearly it's own queer little beastie, though. Eye-catching enough to arouse the interest of even the snottiest adult consumer but kid-friendly enough to pass the fearful readaloud-to-a-large-group test, this is the rare book that pleases highbrow and lowbrow alike. Fun and fanciful and far and away one of the best little picture books of the year. You'd do well to make its acquaintance.
For ages 3-7
The textured collage is reminiscent of Eric Carle, up to and including some die-cut and fold-over pages. This was a hit at storytime! I highly recommend this gem.