Monday 18 October 2010

Review: Vern and Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre

Welcome to Pickle Rye, home of best friends Lettuce the rabbit and Vern the sheep. Join them for baking, birthdays, bunny-sitting and a quest for fame in the big city! Vern and Lettuce reach for the stars, but danger is lurking just beneath their feet...

Earlier this year I reviewed Good Dog, Bad Dog and MeZolith, the first two books released under the DFC Library banner. Around the same time the same publisher also released The Spider Moon, a stunningly illustrated book, but with a story that I felt was more appropriate for girls so I did not post a review. Now the DFC Library is back, with three new releases and I have been incredibly fortunate to have received these from the ever generous Lauren at David Fickling Books. I intend to review all of these over the next week or so, but I thought I would kick off with this little beauty - Vern and Lettuce.

Vern and Lettuce is more comic book than graphic novel, but I certainly do not mean this in any negative way. As with its predecessors it is packaged in a glorious hardcover, which is as vividly coloured as all of the pages within. The reason I say it is more like a comic book than the graphic novels I usually read is the way that the early pages of the book are short one-page vignettes; I was not a reader of the DFC in its original format but I imagine these stories are reproduced in the book just as they were in the original comic. This format works very well as it introduces the characters and their lives to the reader in brief, laugh-out-loud short stories before taking them off on an adventure story arc that spans the last two thirds of the book.

And so for some introductions: firstly there is Vern the sheep. Vern lives in a  tower block in the South London suburb of Pickle Rye, where he works tirelessly  as a groundskeeper at Pickle Rye Park, desperately trying to keep the grass free from some rather persistent moles. Lettuce is a rabbit living in the apartment above Vern's, with a rather large litter of playful  bunnies. As we progress through the book we are introduced to a number of supporting characters who come and go, including an elderly Granny Goat who recycles paper by chewing it; a host of different mole characters; and Gerard, a pigeon with a devious plan.

If you're sat there reading this and thinking that this sounds quite different from the graphic novels I have reviewed in the past then you would be very right, and this isn't the kind of book I would have picked up in a book store. And this is why I feel I am so fortunate to have been sent a copy by the publisher as my day was made so much the better for having read the comic adventures of Vern and Lettuce. The illustrations with their pastel colour tones have a beautiful simplicity to them, yet a closer look hows just how much each panel has been lovingly detailed. And unlike some books in this genre, the appeal of this book is not purely aesthetic as Sarah McIntyre also possesses a great deal of skill with words; her chuckle-inducing writing fits the images perfectly and makes this a book that will put a smile on the face of all its readers, from young children to grumpy old men and women.    

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