This blog is devoted to exquisite picture books. Story books, with pictures. However, not all illustrated children’s books are narrative in nature. Sometimes they tell us about the boreal forest, or the gifts animals bestow upon us. And others, like My Beastly Book of Silly Things, defy categorization. It is a colouring book, yes, but it is also a quirky collection of drawings, puzzles, and activities, beautifully illustrated, with deliciously subversive instructions to colour outside the lines. Not directly, of course, but slyly…through a series of exercises designed to push the boundaries of creativity…and perhaps taste, but only if you’re an adult. My inner eight year old boy found this book hilarious, especially the page with instructions to ‘draw farts for everyone’, but even though this sort of humour skews toward boys, many girls will find the book funny too, especially those preferring MAD magazine to Bieber Beat. The appeal, however, is broader than children of the crayon age, and to be honest the book made me laugh, and made other so-called adults around me laugh, with nary a crayon or a lego in sight. My Beastly Book of Silly Things is the colouring book you wish you’d had as a kid.
The illustrations of heavily-outlined, skinny-limbed humans with exaggerated features are reminiscent of 50’s and especially 60’s cartoon and print culture, and it would not have been a surprise to discover that My Beastly Book of Silly Things had been plucked from that era and republished. The humourous drawings are accompanied by equally amusing instructions to ‘colour the baboon’s bum pink’ or to ‘imagine what your parents look like as fish.’ Kids are directed to help the Big Bad Wolf find Little Red Riding Hood at the end of of a maze, followed by two near empty pages with a single bed in the corner and instructions to ‘draw on the walls of your room.’ Clever idea, and it beats drawing on actual walls. Come to think of it, I used to draw all over my mother’s music books (and a bible or two) and perhaps I wouldn’t have had My Beastly Book of Silly Things been around. Clearly, it was not a case of poor impulse control but a lack of sophisticated colouring books that resulted in my delinquency.
Vincent Boudgourd is the art director at a publicity agency in Rennes, France. According to the publisher website, he enjoys “posters and illustrations from the 1950’s through 70’s (n0 surprise there), traveling, waves, wide open spaces, and meat and potatoes.” Good to know. Trolling through Amazon France I see that Monsieur
Boudgourd has published traditional picture books in addition to the current series of colouring books, including the Delphine Durandesque Le Zarbi Zoo, which translates as The Weird Zoo. Weird? I would expect nothing less from this comically inspired artist, and I hope that we get to see more of his delightful weirdness on this side of the ocean soon. Translators, start your engines.
My Beastly Book of Silly Things by Vincent Boudgourd, published by Owlkids Books, 2010 ISBN: 978-1897349854 (this book is second in a series, the first one being My Beastly Book of Monsters by Arnaud Boutin.)
And coming in July by Vincent Boudgourd, My Beastly Book of Hilarious Heroes: 150 Ways to Doodle, Scribble, Colour and Draw, published by Owlkids Books.