Picture books for children – reviews

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The Guardian, article by Imogen Carter. Read the full story.

Many of Oliver Jeffers’s books have a folk tale flavour, their gentle messages smuggled in via offbeat characters with extraordinary skills or habits (think of The Incredible Book Eating Boy or the girl who hides her heart away in The Heart and the Bottle). Yet The Fate of Fausto (Harper Collins), “a painted fable”, as Jeffers describes it, feels like a fantastically fresh departure.

Fausto is a pompous, pinstripe-suited man with a twirly moustache and a desire to own the natural world. “Tree, you are mine,” he shouts before moving on to the lake as the tree bows obediently. More spare in text and imagery than its predecessors, it’s a tale full of suggestion with expanses of white page wittily used as pregnant pauses and punctuation.

In an age of exquisite picture books, this is possibly the most beautiful of the year. Made with traditional lithographic printmaking techniques, neon pink and yellow shades zing against an earthier palette of green, teal and brown. The aggressive, bullying Fausto is both timeless and utterly of our age (straight out of Westminster, you could say). As he fizzes with rage and makes demands even a toddler would find ridiculous, he’s also very funny. He’s last seen stepping out of his boat to stamp on the obstinate sea.