Hilaire Belloc (text) & Mini Grey (illustrations)
(Jonathan Cape)


The message on the cover of this great new offering from one of our favourite illustrators, Mini Grey, has us warned and sets the tone for this cautionary tale. Now, I will have to admit I had never heard and Hilaire Belloc and his cautionary tales, despite the fact that he was half-French.

This particular poem, written in 1907, describes the story of Jim, a little boy who has it all: kind friends, little tricycles, and even chocolate “with pink inside” (yuk! I hate Turkish delight personally, but that’s by-the-by!). Yet Jim is never satisfied, and ungrateful with it. His favourite pastime: running away from his poor nurse. But on the day trip to the zoo, Jim runs away once too many times and meets a rather sticky end!

The text is harsh, the ending unforgiving and the illustrations quite “graphic” (although still humorous), which is why this picture book is more suited to children aged 7 and above (my 7-year-old loves it, my 4-year-old not so much). But the illustrations, with Mini Grey’s distinctive style, the flaps and the impressive pop-up make this a very beautiful book indeed. The text and pictures work well together; the quirky illustrations make you forget the old-fashionedness of the poem. But despite you have to admire Belloc’s dry, dark humour (more British than French, definitely!).  Grey’s work is a feast for the eyes, as ever. A perfect combination.