21 February 2011

Book of the Week (90): "Lost in the Toy Museum" by David Lucas

I love David Lucas’s storytelling. Picture books such as Peanut and The Robot and the Bluebird convey emotional depth in a few simple words which are never beyond the grasp of young readers. His illustrations have a very distinctive style – they are both simple, reminiscent of naïve art, yet the way they are assembled on the page is very current, and the result is beautifully decorative. Lost in the Toy Museum is no exception, although it is more light-hearted than some of Lucas’s other work.

Set in Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood, which is one of my favourite museums in London, it is basically a hide-and-seek game which the toys play with their surrogate parent figure, Bunting the cat. Bunting in his hat, suit and suitcase obviously cares about the toys’ welfare and education, but like many parents and teachers, he can sometimes be a bit stuffy and serious. What he needs is to let go and have fun, and this is what the toys’ game is designed to teach him. As he searches for the rebellious crew, Bunting moves from setting to setting in the museum. The scenery and the toy characters featured in the book can be found in the museum itself, so the adventure has the potential to move beyond the page and become interactive as the child reader can join the game by visiting the galleries, following Bunting’s trail and searching for the actual toys. Lucas comments that he often visited the museum as a child, and I can’t think of a better way to thank this lovely institution for preserving memories of childhood gone by and inspiring new ones daily.

Recommended by Noga Applebaum

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