Ernest has promised Celestine they will go on a picnic and the little mouse is very much looking forward to it. When it pours down with the rain the next day, Ernest cannot bear to see Celestine disappointed. So, undeterred by the torrential rain, off they go on their day out, despite the frowns and tut-tutting of the people they pass along the way. But one particularly grumpy person seems like he might just ruin the day. Or will he?
The Picnic is the second of Gabrielle Vincent’s bestselling series to be published in the UK (see my review of the first book, Ernest & Celestine, here). This second book does not disappoint and is also brimful of charm, kindness and tenderness without ever feeling sentimental. Ernest and Celestine stories give readers the same feeling and satisfaction as a big hug or mug of hot chocolate on a rainy day. The stunning watercolour and ink illustrations by Gabrielle Vincent really help to achieve that effect. They have a timeless quality to them which is simply wonderful.
But the unlikely friendship between the two characters and Ernest’s temperament and infinite kindness really bring out the “feel good” side of the stories. In this book, there is a particularly touching moment when the grumpy landowner asks Ernest if he is not indeed “a bit too old for this kind of thing?”. Rather than upset Ernest, this comment spurs him to invite to him to join them, striking up a new friendship in the process. This is one of the strengths of the series, showing the kindness of “people”, the difference friendship and care can make. Yes, having such an incredibly generous and slightly bohemian view of life might seem unrealistic and unreachable to many. So what? We can all benefit from stepping out of the mould and reaching out every so often, and this is what this tale shows its readers: don’t be afraid to do something different, don’t always worry about the “norm”, don’t be afraid to meet scepticism and grouchiness with the open hand of friendship and conviviality. This story shows little readers what simple gestures can result in, and there is definitely nothing wrong with that.
The Picnic is a perfect book for this time of year. Considering how unpredictable British summers can be, the tale of Ernest and Celestine’s plans threatened of being thwarted by wet weather is certainly one all of us can relate to. But this wonderful take of determination and friendship might just actually encourage a little bit of adventurous behaviour from carers in a bid to entertain their little ones on rainy days. And if the rain really does get the better of you, there is always the option of making a den and picnicking on one’s living-room.
A gorgeous old-fashioned picture book, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Source: review copy from the publisher