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Browne, Anthony, with Browne, Joe: Playing the Shape Game.

Browne, Anthony, with Browne, Joe

Playing the Shape Game

Doubleday, 2011, pp240, 25.00 [pounds sterling]

978 0 3856 1050 6


Anthony Browne's autobiography, written in collaboration with his son Joe, is an important book and particularly welcome, since it answers all the questions which we would like to ask him. The title has its roots in a simple game, played with his brother when they were boys. One draws an abstract shape, and the other person transforms it into something recognisably realistic. This game--which Browne has been playing in one form or another throughout his life--has a serious aspect because, as he explains, essentially it is about creativity itself. Every time we draw or write, we are transforming our own experience into a picture or a story. Transformation, in many guises, is the major theme of all Browne's work.

The main section of the memoir carries discussion of his picture books, set within an autobiographical framework beginning with his earliest memories, in which his father played a major role, and concluding in the present, with a tribute to his (grown up) children and their influence upon him as a father and artist. He describes his period as a medical illustrator which honed his drawing skills, and as a greetings card designer, which preceded his career in children's book illustration. The chapters which focus directly on his books carry anecdotes and reflections upon the decisions and processes that went in to their creation, from the original idea to the relationships between words and images, artistic style, the compositions and layout.

Reading his words is like being given a gentle, genial, personal tutorial in how to make meanings. He's a born teacher, not a trained one, with his picture books embodying lessons for life shaped for direct enjoyment. Browne does not underestimate children's abilities. Over his career he has met, worked, corresponded, and gained opinions from thousands of them. He's been artist in residence at Tate Britain, and currently is the Children's Laureate. Among his numerous awards is the most prestigious of all, for a lifetime's achievement in children's literature--the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.

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Author:Doonan, Jane
Publication:School Librarian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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