The Brontës have always fascinated me, and my interest was revived in the last couple of years by two outstanding productions: Sally Cookson’s stage adaptation of Jane Eyre at Bristol Old Vic and the BBC drama about the Brontë family, To Walk Invisible. It was with great excitement therefore that I found out that Mick Manning and Brtta Granström had written a picturebook about them (Franklin Watts). Their collaborative style is one I never get tired of; whatever subject they decide to tackle, the finished product is always wonderfully put together, fascinating and ingenious.
Interestingly, Manning grew up in Haworth and uses his own experience as a way into the story of the famous sisters. As a local boy he was enrolled to play a shepherd boy in the 1967 BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights and this is used as a springboard to tell the story: while waiting for filming, young Michael falls asleep on the Moors and Charlotte appears to him while he is sleeping, keen to tell him about her and her siblings’ story.
As with their other books, The Brontës: Children of the Moors offers biographical information mainly in the form of narrative text, which is conveyed in a variety of formats, using full page illustrations as well as vignettes, often using comic strip conventions such as speech bubbles. Each double-spread is dedicated to a topic which allows readers to go from one section to another; this is a book that does not need to be read from cover to cover. In fact I constantly find myself going back and forward, discovering new details with each reading. The diversity in fonts and layout encourages this also: the text is broken down and the narrative remains dynamic throughout, creating movement, and the inclusion of vignettes alongside the text reveal plenty of little details to discover and pore over, which also break the main, longer narrative.
I love this spread particularly which recounts Anne and Charlotte’s trip to London when the Bells are finally revealed to be female writers:
The book also includes narrative outlines from each of the sisters’ most famous books (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) again told in comic strip style.
The artwork really is wonderful at capturing the wilderness of the Moors, and how it might have inspired the family (You can have a look at some of the artwork from the book on the Guardian website ).
I love the endpapers, identical in all but the fact that the end one is a negative version of the other, which frame the narrative wonderfully and hint that beyond life, the siblings still walk the Moors.
A gorgeous first introduction to the Brontës and their work for children, and a real treat for adults too.
The Brontës: Children of the Moors was published in 2016 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. This is part of a five year programme celebrating the family, Brontë200 spearheaded by The Brontë Society. You can find out more here. 2018 is Emily Brontë’s year.
All artwork © Mick Manning and Brita Granström
You can buy a copy of The Brontës: Children of the Moors here.