The Story Thief is the third children’s book by printmaker Graham Carter
The story begins:
Olive was rather a shy girl. She rarely left the house except to visit the library in Craggy Bay with her Dad and borrow books. Olive LOVED books.
However, Olive’s happy life is rocked on a rowing trip with her Dad. Olive drops a book that sinks to the bottom of the ocean. A mysterious creature finds the book and after discovering that books seem to bring enjoyment to people, it steals all of the books in town,. The only problem – it doesn’t know what to do with them. Meanwhile, the townspeople are unhappy without their books and it is left to Olive to track down the thief and teach him the joys of reading – and sharing stories.
Graham Carter’s illustrations are a visual delight. The style is colourful and contemporary but the mood is distinctly traditional. One of the things that I really enjoyed is Carter’s world-building. The craggy town where Olive lives is a topsy-turvey collection of roofs and windows with the feeling of an old Cornish fishing village like Polperro. Olive’s bedroom is devoid of techno paraphernalia, instead, we see a bookcase, a wooden trainset and a mechanical robot, Her imagination is fired (as shown in thought images) while her Dad reads a bedtime story. She wears a nightcap as might be worn by Wee Willie Winkie in an old fashioned Mother Goose.
In another scene, a heavily bearded lighthouse keeper sits in his lightroom reading, surrounded by dials and levers and an old fashioned radio. Craggy Bay is a cosy world with cobbled streets, no wonder the creature wants a piece of this magic.
Carter’s pictures have a luminescent yellow, glow-in-the-dark quality, he discovered the technique for creating this effect by using light inks on top of darker printing inks which give shapes that sodium-like glow that we recognise from older street lamps. It makes his twilight scenes magical. I was interested to discover that he has also produced posters for Brighton’s midwinter solstice festival of light, Burning the Clocks, Festival, which have the same glowing qualities
For anyone who loves stories, the joy in this book is that shy Olive becomes the intrepid explorer, inspired by the characters she has read about. And she wins the creature over not by doing battle but simply by reading aloud. Stories do have the power to shape the people we become and this is the essence of The Story Thief. It is a lovely addition to the book corner (and you may well want to check out Graham Carter’s online print shop too).
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