Monday, 17 January 2011

My Life That Books Built #2: The Giant Jam Sandwich

In part one of my new semi-regular feature about the books that I have loved as I have grown up (in no particular order) I wrote about the first book I can remember owning, Little Jacko and the Wolf People. Sadly this book is no longer in print, but today's book seems to have been rarely out of print since it was first published in 1972. This week I am again looking at a picture book, and I know there will be many adult readers of the Book Zone who will share my love of The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway. Thanks to the generosity of the people at Random House, who have just republished the book under their Red Fox imprint, I now have a sparkling new copy to fill me with nostalgic feelings.

Some books age poorly, but I am happy to say that The Giant Jam Sandwich is not one of those. In my opinion it is still as funny and as fresh today as it was when it was first published, and it is certainly worthy of a place in any small child's book collection. If you don't know about this book (and it astounded me recently when my wife and my sister both claimed never to have heard of it) then you are in for as big a treat as any child you read it to for the first time. How's this for a premise:

One hot summer in Itching Down,
Four million wasps flew into town.

What are the villagers going to do about this noisy, nasty nuisance of a swarm? Make a giant jam sandwich - that's what!

Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best, and this story is wonderfully simple: an English country village is invaded by wasps (four million of the beggars) and so the residents come up with a plan to solve this problem that even the A-Team would have been impressed with - they will create a giant jam sandwich to lure the wasps, because:

"Then Bap the Baker leaped to his feet
And cried,, "What do wasps like best to eat?
Strawberry jam! Now wait a minute!
If we made a giant jam sandwich we could trap them in it!"

The word classic is often overused, but in this case I feel that it is thoroughly deserved. John Vernon Lord's illustrations are of a style that was very popular when the book was written, but in this sparkling new edition they don't seem old fashioned at all, even if the fashions depicted are not exactly the latest trends. Although as the images depict a the people of a stereotypical Midsomer style country village (without the Murders of course) maybe the styles of clothing weren't particularly typical of the time back then either. Janet Burroway's simple and humorous rhymes are the perfect complement to Lord's images, and I am sure that there will be many children who, once they have progressed onto reading for themselves, will continue to enjoy this book. With this new edition Red Fox have ensured that the quality of the story is matched by quality packaging - the images are bright and clear, and all printed on a good quality paper, ensuring that this story will continue to be loved by many more children.


  1. I love the sound of this. Such a simple but effective premise. I am so buying it for the school library if it is still in print.

  2. Just stumbled across your website and honestly had never remembered that book until seeing it now (I'm 39). Wow, can't wait to read it again.