The General by Janet Charters and Michael Foreman
|The General by Janet Charters and Michael Foreman|
|Genre: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath|
|Summary: A tale of peace over war, straight from the sixties. It's of its time, and will sit happiest with those with pacifist leanings, but there is still a sweet tale that can be enjoyed by all. Michael Foreman's illustrations are as wonderful as ever.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 48||Date: February 2010|
General Jodhpur keeps his soldiers busy, polishing their boots and practising shooting. He wants to become the most famous general in the whole world. One day, he's thrown off his horse, and discovers the joys of lying in the grass. On his walk home, he gets a chance to smell the flowers, and soon sets about putting his soldiers to more peaceful activities.
The General was written in 1961 and it shows. It has a naivety (even for a picture book) that screams of the early 60s - all soldiers need is a flower and they'll toss aside their guns. I wish dearly it were true, but fifty years on, it seems almost too simple. The book isn't dated, but it is very much of its time. The Cold War is long and distant history to children reading it now. Some parents won't even have been born when the Berlin Wall came down - you suddenly feel very old, don't you? It's a sweet and lovely tale that will be best-appreciated by those of a hippy bent.
Of its time it may be, but the quality of the writing is great. The vocabulary is clear and direct, making it suitable for the youngest readers. It's a little more lengthy than the average picture book, so its core audience will be children on the cusp of being able to read for themselves who want a more detailed and engaging tale than usual, or who want something a bit lighter than the usual chapter a night fare.
This was one of the books that began Michael Foreman's illustrious career, and you can see exactly why he's become one of the best-loved illustrators. His pen and ink drawings look stunning, perfectly capturing the rigidity of military life, then blossoming into the bright and varied colours of nature. His mosaic-like overhead view of a city is such a unique approach that you'll love seeing the moment of realisation on a child's face. Every page is a joy to pore over. Recommended.
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
More Michael Foreman is always a great idea, so for further reading, check out War Game and A Child's Garden. For more modern takes on the joys of gardening, you'll like Christopher Nibble by Charlotte Middleton and Oh No, Monster Tomato! by Jim Helmore and Karen Wall
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.