Gaspard’s Foxtrot is a unique fusion of words, art and music
Gaspard’s Foxtrot is an artistic and musical joy of a picture book, created by two of the nicest people you are ever likely to meet. To truly indulge in this story it must be heard read aloud by the dulcet tones of author Zeb Soanes (who you may recognise from BBC Radio 4) and the ultimate experience would of course be attendance at one of the live orchestral performances with Jonathan Dove, which will happen as soon as permitted.
As with the first two Gaspard adventures, this story centres around a real community event – this time an open-air concert at Hyde Park. Gaspard the fox walks with her friend Finty the dog to the bus stop and when Finty’s owner drops her scarf, Gaspard instinctively catches it and hops on board to return the lost garment. Thus he ends up on the number 38 travelling through central London, admiring the sights and disembarking at Hyde Park for the climatic concert.
The endpapers provide fox facts and all the places of interest along the route. This wonderful illustration posed quite a challenge for illustrator, James Mayhew, as he painstakingly recreated each side street and landmark to accurately represent the bus route from Islington to Hyde Park. Fans of Mayhew’s hugely successful and utterly delightful Katie books (including Katie In London and Katie’s London Christmas) will be delighted with this new journey through the capital.
Journey through London
The landmarks Zeb and James decided to show are not the usual tourist attractions and give a really authentic feel to the ‘real’ London such as the beloved James Smith & Sons umbrella shop in Bloomsbury and the Pyramid spire with a unicorn statue! The story provides both a visual treat and a historic journey through England’s capital.
The vocabulary is delightfully challenging. Phrases such as ‘civilise the bees’ and ‘brightly lit signs enticed tourists’, make this a joy to read aloud and ideal for enriching children’s own writing. The story really does read well. I laughed out loud when Peter, who is my favourite character (as both a cat lover and a lexophile!), fell off the sofa in surprise to see his fox pal take the stage.
A Feast for the Senses
Both Zeb and James have previously worked with orchestras, so it was inevitable that this collaboration with Jonathan Dove developed. What is really unique about Gaspard’s foxtrot book is that it was written with the idea of storytelling through words, art and music in mind. You can spot the aural clues, such as the roar of the traffic, the clock, the street full of people playing instruments and the cacophony of noise in China town.
Gaspard’s foxtrot provides a model for the teaching of literacy, art and music – now that is the kind of 3 for the price of 1 we all want on our bookshelves! A super next read for fans of The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony (which was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra) and the perfect bridging text to Peter and the Wolf. At a time when staycations and outdoor performance are gaining enormous popularity, this is a timely tale to encourage children to enjoy the arts in any way available to them. So join with us and ‘civilise’ the next generation by immersing them in the words, art and music of this incredible picture book that will inspire a lifelong love of culture in all its many facets.
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