Manners make the man (or the gnome)
Gnome by Fred Blunt, Andersen Press
What's it about?
This cautionary tale like "gno" other introduces readers to a grumpy gnome whose favourite word is "No!" We discovered Gnome thanks to one of Mama G's virtual story time events. We had no idea what was about to happen when we saw it being read, so I don't want to give too much away and spoil anyone's first encounter with Mr Gnome! Expect the unexpected and plenty of side-splitting, laugh-out-loud moments.
What can we learn?
It's important to treat others with respect; it costs nothing to be polite, but not having manners could cost you a lot! This story also reveals the origins of the garden gnome and why you should NEVER be rude to a witch.
What makes this stand out? Gnome is a masterpiece! It's one of those extraordinary picture books that demonstrates the unique magic inherent to this genre. The text and images come together to create a powerful, immersive experience. A conversational-style narrative gives the impression that the gnome is speaking directly to the reader.
The characters are fantastic, so memorable and entertaining. The gnome is genius and I love the enterprising witch. The combination of theatrical storytelling and exceptionally animated artwork means these creations don't just come to life, they practically leap off the page.
About those illustrations...
They're amazing - incredibly expressive and comical, charged with energy, and absolutely beautiful to look at. I love how much is going on; every page is full of charming details. The endpapers and title pages provide amusing preludes and epilogues. The expressions of the characters are brilliant, including those of the "extras," such as toads, fish, dragonflies, butterflies and birds. I love how they are all drawn and how distinct their personalities are, even at a glance.
Why we love it...
It's so funny and my kids have been obsessed with Gnome ever since it arrived. They've even been staging re-enactments of the book when playing together. The youngest, who will be four in a couple of months, could only write the first letter of her name before we got this. Since we've been reading it regularly, she has taken to writing NO everywhere! She also loves to say (or shout!) the gnome's lines when we read the book together.
I watched a live reading of Gnome with Fred Blunt over the weekend as part of the Time for Mum virtual festival. During a Q&A session, Fred mentioned that the inspiration for the story came from one of his children when they were younger and going through a phase of constantly saying "No!" Mr Gnome definitely reminds me of my own kids when they're being uncooperative. The youngest frequently refuses to greet people on the way to and from preschool, which tends to be her least cheerful time of day. It happened again this afternoon. We passed a little boy who waved at us and I asked, "Are you going to say hello?" When she roared "NO!" in response, I immediately thought of Mr Gnome and smiled. You don't have to actually be reading this book to enjoy it!
Why you need it...
Gnome is one-of-a-kind and so much fun. Pantomime-like elements make it appealing to children of all ages. It's an interesting and effective way of impressing the importance of good manners too! Although Mr Gnome is extremely grumpy, he is guaranteed to put readers in a good mood, and this book is bound to be requested over and over again. Gnome is one of those special stories that I'm certain my family and I will remember fondly for years to come.
About the author-illustrator:
Fred Blunt is an award-winning author and illustrator of lots of wonderful children's books. We LOVE Lionel the Lonely Monster (read a review) and Cat Has a Plan (read a review). Inspired by the Muppets, Quentin Blake, and the Flintstones, Fred has been a compulsive doodler since he was in hand-me-downs. He studied illustration at the University of the West of England, and his various design projects include animated interstitials for the BBC. Follow Fred on Instagram to see daily doodles, images from works-in-progress and upcoming titles.
Gnome was published by Andersen Press in February 2020 and the paperback has just been released. Gnome won the 2020 ELS InspiREAD picture book award and was included in the Book Trust's Great Books guide.