This is just me being cranky, isn't it. I am the only person in the world who will look at this pretty, wholesome, lots-to-look-at picture book, this rhyming de-cumulative stroll down a London street filled with people and pets of all ages, colors, countries of origin, and sizes - and go, "Hmmph."
After all, the color palette is interesting, the line delicate. The details are sweet enough to eat and the characters have an open demeanor that is very appealing. The book practically defines the word "winsome." So it's probably just me.
A little girl, Sally, it out shopping. She's got her basket and her list and she starts at one end of "the high street," aka Main Street, picking up her various items at each specialty shop. The text feels like a jump-rope rhyme: "Sally's in the High Street and this is what she needs..." and in each shop reiterates her list item by item. Really, the shops are dear: Mr. Kumar's china shop is full of platters and gravy boats and china dolls, transferware and Toby mugs; Ms. Yoshiko has a neat little apartment above the antique shop where she sells mantel clocks and fainting couches.
I think it was when we got to Mr. Crispin's toy shop, with its stock of wooden tops, retro robots, hobby horses and matryoshka dolls, with a Punch and Judy show going on upstairs, that I suddenly wondered how relatable this book was. Grownups love toy shops like Mr. Crispin's. Grownups (some grownups) love brightly painted wooden skittles sets and old-fashioned alphabet blocks. We kind of wish our kids wanted toys like these - like we wish our kids didn't clamor for Pokemon books and we wish they wanted an artisanal candy heart on a stick instead of the plastic pig that you squeeze so that jelly beans com out of its butt. The Porky Pooper. And how I wish I didn't know that.
But the book just bugs me. It's too high-class, and smug about it. We could get a baguette at the bakery and some rhubarb at the greengrocer - he grows his own vegetables in a greenhouse on the top floor, you know, so you can be sure it's all organic - and what next? A bespoke school uniform? Surely, it's lovely to pop in and out of the shops, supporting our local businesses and "sourcing" our ingredients... but this merchant-class boutique-style shopping would be unrecognizable to most of the kids I serve.
The rest of us go to Target, and luckily, Target does things like employ J. Otto Seibold and Jason Schulte and Bill Brown, so we may manage to incidentally expose ourselves to fine modern illustration anyway.
But as I say, I'm just cranky. I also don't see what people see in Tom Brady, so there you go.