Silly Lilly – Toon Books takes us all back to a forgotten idyllic childhood
by Agnes Rosenstiehl
After having recently looked at the genesis of Francoise Mouly’s excellent Toon Books (first comics for brand-new readers) and the recent Art Spiegelman Jack And The Box which I thought was wonderful (review here), I thought a spin through some of the other Toon Books might be called for.
Like all Toon Books, the first thing you’ll notice about Silly Lilly is the beautiful presentation of this exquisite hardback with sumptuous design. Louise (my dear wife) and Molly (aged 9) read this one first and both really enjoyed it. Louise was particularly taken with it and said it really reminded her of the sorts of books she remembers from her childhood. Having read it later myself I have to concur with these two esteemed judges of great books. Silly Lilly is just delightful, simple words and clear art that just entrance readers young and old.
The Silly Lilly character is based on Rosenstiehl’s “Mimi Cracra” character published for years in her native France and is a masterfully simple tale. Or rather a series of five tales, cycling through the seasons, beginning and ending with spring. Each season takes just five pages including the title page, but that’s enough, as the energetic and graceful Lilly dances her way across the pages, playing in the park with Teddy, exploring the beach, tasting apples in the fall, playing in the snow and finally flying on a swing. Each tale focuses on one simple thing,but does so in such a way that a child can find a real bond with this fun little girl.
The economy of story-telling is perfect for the age group with each page just two large panels, of clear black line and a subtle watercolour texture on the minimalist backgrounds. The language is as minimal as the backgrounds, never too difficult and with each sentence ending with an exclamation mark, it’s a fun, fast read.
It’s quite the perfect book for an emerging reader and, as discovered by Louise, one that may have as much appeal to an older audience, who’ll see a nostalgic look back to the simple picture books of their childhood. Either way, it’s quite lovely.