Thursday 5 July 2018

The Boy Who Imagined... And Found He Could Draw Young Fiction Review

The Boy Who Imagined... And Found He Could Draw by Ann and Fred Onymouse is a very quirky book for readers aged around 7+, but older children will take away much more from reading it. I can't decide if this is the most truthful piece of social commentary I've read in years, or a children's book which is just a bit weird? It's impossible to tell.

The book revolves around a young boy called Vapi, or Van Gogh Pablo Picasso Salvador Dali if you want to give him his full name. Clearly his parents are artistic types and have high hopes for Vapi. He doesn't feel he can draw and avoids it as much as he can. Vapi is a sensitive boy and is pulled out of school by his parents to be home-schooled for a while, but that doesn't really go to plan and he returns to school.

Vapi's school is quite bizarre. The teaching staff are harsh and unwilling to stand up to bullies within the school or protect Vapi, who soon learns to keep his comments flattering and his head down.

The family are so poor that they can't afford food, so Vapi goes out and manages to earn £12 by drawing, which he spends on chips. This boosts everyone and for a moment it seems everything is looking up. Vapi has been searching for his own 'strong point' and his parents are excited that he is beginning to find his talents.

Vapi's school life though, is controlled by one particular bully who steals his work and uses it to enter a TV contest. The contest has the aim to show that children can help elderly and disabled people discover or re-discover their own talents. Vapi intends to enter, but is waylaid en route by an elderly man who is lost and panics (and cries) when he thinks he's going to be left to wait alone. Vapi takes the man to eat some food and then takes him to the TV studio in order to enter the competition.

These are brutal realities faced by people in the UK at the.moment, but unusual to find in a modern children's book with a current UK setting. Massive points are also glossed over and given minimal importance, as if they are every day events - which I suppose they are. If you want quirky realism, you have come to the right place. It's kind of like Tracy Beaker with an additional focus on being poor.

The Boy Who Imagined... And Found He Could Draw is one of the most bizarre books I've ever read. It reads like a dream, where problems vanish into thin air and the world adapts to fit the main storyline. Why didn't Vapi's Mum ring the police when he wasn't at school at home time? Why would his art teacher just let the 10 year old leave early because he asked? Why did the dinner lady let him have a free lunch 2 days running and no-one tell his parents he had no money? Why was it okay for the bully to steal his work and everyone just adapt what they said to not offend the bully?

On the face of it an incredibly different and unusual book with a fairly ordinary (if fantastical) storyline, but it actually leaves you mouth agape and wondering whatever became of humanity and why we put up with what we do.

There's no recommended age, but I'd say that this is good for reading independently aged around 7+, and best for age 10+ as a child of this age will understand far of the underlying messages. Text is varied, with bold and large text for emphasis, there are lots of illustrations and it's a very easy to read book which will even suit reluctant readers. An excellent book for heading discussion around bullying and social conscience, as the reader spends half the time thinking "are you really going to put up with this?" and then trying to work out exactly how Vapi's problems can be solved.

You might also find yourself believing anyone can draw if they use imagination, which I guess is also completely true.

The Boy Who Imagined... And Found He Could Draw is written by Ann and Fred Onymouse and illustrated by Ann Onymouse and published by Matador. Paperback with 112 pages, rrp £7.99 and available to buy now from all good book shops, including online at Amazon and direct from Matador themselves

We were sent our copy of The Boy Who Imagined... And Found He Could Draw for review. 

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