First published on 30th July, 2006 in The Star
READING OLE Konnecke’s delightful Anthony and the Girls (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 32 pages) I was irresistibly reminded of that Shania Twain song in which she fails to be impressed by various suitors despite their fast cars, good looks etc.
Thankfully, unlike Ms Twain in the promotional video for that song, the girls in this picture book (translated by Nancy Seitz) are not clad in leopard skin.
They are, however, as unimpressed by Anthony’s efforts to make them notice him. I would say their silence is more effective than Twain’s nasal whine in conveying complete apathy. You know, they say that less is more ….
I love Konnecke’s illustrations: clean, simple line drawings, filled in with just three or four autumnal shades on a fresh white background; Anthony’s changing expressions and the girls’ poker faces.
Possessions (a bucket and shovel and a big toy car) don’t cut any ice with these girls; neither do acts of bravery (going down the slide, head-first, eyes shut).
When Anthony builds a house out of some odds and ends, the girls don’t bat an eyelid.
Then the house collapses and Anthony bursts into tears. That’s when the girls pay him some attention. They offer the boy a cookie and invite him to play.
Depending on your point of view, you might say that their nurturing instinct gets the better of them. Or you might say that it brings out their nicer sides.
I don’t think, as someone uncharitably suggested, that the girls are actually aware of everything Anthony does and are ignoring him on purpose.
Playing hard to get? I’d like to think not! Why not just so thoroughly absorbed in building a really great sandcastle that they are totally oblivious to flashy cars and showy real estate?
Sometimes, I guess, the message you get from a book says something about the sort of person you are.
I would dearly love a copy of this book so excuse me while I go search for spare change under the sofa cushions.