Wow, aren’t we lucky to have another amazing and original picture book by French author and illustrator, Clotilde Perrin. Thank you too, to translator Daniel Hahn for this English translation edition. It’s interactive, big – stand out big – and is asking to be read and explored on the floor together with a group of children or on your own – because Perrin’s picture books are full of surprises.
Gotcha is a funny, fairy tale hide-and-seek, lift-the-flap adventure. It invites you to find hiding places in three famous fairy tale houses – the three little pigs’ brick home, Sleeping Beauty’s palace and Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread mansion – from three frightful monsters who want to gobble you up, before the main character – which could be you the reader as there is no main character until the end – turns the table on their hide-and-seek game and chases them out of the house. It’s full of humour and surprises on each page and as you can imagine the lift-the-flaps offer lots of inventive hiding places.
As we have come to expect from Clotilde Perrin, if you’re familiar with her other books, such as Inside the Villains (and if you’re not, I expect you’ll want to be after reading Gotcha), you’ll know how brilliantly she creates colourful detailed full-page illustrations of monsters and villains, designed to look both humorous and scary in equal measure. The nasty hairball with frightful fur and feculent feet, the fizzling stinkwart and a terrible tired-eyed creeper are brilliantly captured in this way. The descriptions, using alliteration and fabulous adjectives are certainly going to expand vocabulary and I can see children being inspired to create their own horrible monsters with their own alliterative descriptions after reading this book.
I love the way it’s written in a conversational style in a font that looks like someone has handwritten the descriptions of the villains, where they are and suggestions of where to hide, asking you to interact as soon as you turn the first page. Teacher, parent, carer or the child reading could have their own sheet of paper or sticky notes to hand to make extra helpful notes to tuck the book for future adventurers trying to find hiding places from the monsters. There is so much to explore in this book. Just opening one of the house flaps takes you into rooms with more flaps within flaps with labels and notes and signs to read and so much illustrative detail, you find your eyes darting across the page to be sure not to miss anything. It’s definitely a book that will be revisited again and again. I have! And I have found something else I missed each time! I know for sure, that anyone of any age will feel the joy of discovering what is behind each door, cupboard, tablecloth, book cover and more.
And there is a more than a nod to a well-known classic Maurice Sendak picture book. In the middle of the book, we see all three monsters, on a double page spread, ‘really wild now…grinding their terrible teeth’. If you look closely, on the utterly brilliant bookshelf double spread with flaps to lift as the monsters’ search, there is of course a book spine titled, Where The Wild Things Are. And finally, at the end we meet the monster chaser in their bedroom at the end dressed in a monster suit like Max!
The excitement of seeing a book that is a unique twist of well-known fairy tales and surprising you at every turn of the page is just another of the many reasons why I love this book. I love that it encourages imaginations to go wild, to be creative with play, words, pictures and bookmaking. It is a joyous, multi-layered, exploratory wonder of a journey from start to finish.
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