There are some books that are so perfectly crafted that it’s hard to know where to begin in explaining just how all the elements of it work so well together.
The Something, written and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb and published by Macmillan Children’s Books is one such book.
So here goes, I’ll try to do it justice and start with the story. A little boy is playing in his garden when he loses his ball. It disappears down a hole in the grass, under a tree. He can’t reach in to get it back, neither can anyone else and this gets him thinking, just what, or who is down there anyway?
What follows is a wonderfully imaginative exploration of the possible residents of the hole. Everyone has a different idea for the little boy to ponder over. Could it be a family of frogs, a dragon, a troll? Each page is illustrated in beautiful, soft colours with half of each double page dedicated to what could be living beneath the hole underground.
The underground illustrations run alongside the story like a separate, unspoken subplot. Each one is full of character and drama and provide great talking points for little ones to discuss what is happening. The lost ball features in every one of the possible underground worlds, another gorgeous feature, my bigger boy loves to spot where it is.
It’s hard to choose a favourite potential destination for the ball but I love the mouse’s house that the boy’s Mum suggests. Deep down underground you see the ball that has just shot down their stairs, straight into the dining table and knocked the dinner all over the floor. The mother mouse stands looking at the mess with her hands on her hips, it is so expressive! The boy’s Grandma thinks it’s a mole in the hole while Grandad says it’s a badger. And there on the opposite page is a mole and badger in the hole mirroring the grandparents with their knitting and newspapers, it’s adorable.
There is so much going on in the illustrations but this is achieved with great subtlety. I particularly like how the tree that is above the hole changes through the seasons as we go through the book, the colours in the leaves and branches are amazing. And at every re-read I stop to look at the little birds sitting in the tree at the beginning, they are so beautifully detailed and delicate.
I read a blog post not so long ago about why picture books matter. I found a lot of the points from this article in The Something and, for me, it is a perfect example of the brilliance of picture books. The pictures tell a story themselves and encourage the reader to think, to look for meanings, to ask questions.
My bigger boy really enjoys this book and we’ve read it over and over, he says he thinks it’s a dragon and a troll living down the hole!
This is an endearing story of how wonderful and limitless children’s imaginations are and together with the stunning illustrations it is also a beautiful work of art.
You can see more of Rebecca Cobb’s stunning work on her website here.Follow @Acornbooks