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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Claude Ponti
Age Range: 6-8
This enchanting large-format picture takes the reader on a truly amazing journey through the world inhabited by the tiny, lovable squirrel-like creatures known as the Twims. Celebrated French illustrator and children’s writer Claude Ponti has created a charming universe where the Twims live in their magnificent Tree House overlooking a beautiful valley. They are surrounded by many wonders – a whispering tree where secrets are kept, magic seeds that grow into huge ships and a singing stone where children can make a wish. There are also many valley islands including ‘Surprise Island’, where new presents can be found every day.
Narrated by Poochie-Blue, one of the young Twims, there is no central story, but rather snippets or scenes from their life in the valley. Although the pithy text, (down to the translation of Alyson Waters), explains many of the curiosities on Poochie-Blue’s guided tour it’s the visual narrative that creates such an impact because there is just so much to observe – ‘Dads’ Night’ that comes once a year where a big statue of Dad Twims appears on the mountain and all the dads go there to learn how to be a dad; the Theatre of Hissy Fits where Twims can act out their grievance and vent their anger and a Forest of Lost Children. Twims are buried in their own cemetery garden; a garden they had always wanted resulting in an array of different ones from a garden that sings and rings to a garden for serving tea that is enhanced by the vignette of a large cup-and-saucer with a ladder up to a table and chairs laid out for tea.
Ponti also makes many references to books and reading within the text and illustrations. In winter Poochie-Blue likes it best when they all get together to read stories in books – this is captured with a lovely image of all the young Twims sitting down reading in a line, one even has a book balanced on his head as well as one in his hand. There is the cemetery garden of the never-ending story, or ‘Softly Sleepy Island’ with its storytelling pillows. There are plenty of books in their tree house with two libraries and then there is the ‘King of Trees’ who on discovering that books are made from trees, dreams of the book he will one day become when his life as a tree is over.
There is so much to pore over in My Valley. The witty text and exquisite detail in the full page and smaller pictures capturing the surreal world of the Twims and their valley make this book an absolute must for any young reader (and for any adult too).