Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Giant Jam Sandwiches

Time for a contender for Favourite Picture Book Currently In House.

'The Giant Jam Sandwich' was written by Janet Burroway and illustrated by John Vernon Lord in the early 1970s and thus should fall into the category of nostalgia wallow for me. In fact I don't think it was part of our childhood library and it was simply a lucky impulse purchase a few years back. More than likely it was the combination of sweet food and the word 'giant' that attracted me. Regular blog readers may have noticed how my mind works in this respect.

I've always wondered about where this book originated but had been too lazy to find out until now. It seems very British in the placement of its story and in its pictures of village houses, rolling hills, fields and white cliffs. Yet the whole 'style' of the book; it's intricate pen and ink work, detailed colouring and generally fab early 70's vibe is much more reminiscent of a classic American picture book. The cars definitely look American.(I think I need to find some Scholarly Work to really unpick what I mean here- I am conscious that there are definitely different 'traditions' in house styles of picture books from country to country and would like to develop my eye better). It seems that it is in fact a collaboration between an American author and British illustrator: That may explain my confusion then.

It tells the story, in jaunty rhyme, of the village of Itching Down plagued by the arrival of four million wasps. The villagers hold a meeting to decide what to do about this and come to the entirely reasonable conclusion they should collaborate on trapping them in a giant jam sandwich.

This being the 1970s, it falls to the women of the town to make the dough for the giant loaf under the careful supervision of  Bap the Baker and the men to transport the cooked loaf and slice it up with a giant saw. Flying machines (including a tractor, converted with the aid of propellor blade and that ever useful standby-the bunch of balloons) raise the second slice of bread ready to trap the wasps once the first slice is buttered and jammed.

'Suddenly the sky was humming!
All four million wasps were coming!
They smelled that jam, they dived and struck!
And they ate so much that they all got stuck.
The other slice came down- kersplat!-
on top of the wasps, and that was that.
There were only three that got away,
And where they are now I cannot say.'

There are books in this house which some of us like more than others of us. There are books in this house which only one or two of us like at all. This book we all like a lot. It lends itself to recitation very nicely too, so it tends to get read in kind of 'play form' with any participant jumping in to complete the next line, take the part of Mayor Muddlenut or possibly 'squeal' on behalf of the ladies.

I have been excited to discover that Janet Burroway and John Vernon Lord worked together on another title; 'The Truck on the Track', which according to her website has just come back into print. Not it would appear here in the UK yet alas- but I shall see if I can nose it out.

For those looking for a fix of giant sweet item. The site 'Pimp my snack'  is something of a classic; they don't seem to have tackled a jam sandwich yet but I am full of admiration for what they can do with a custard cream.

'The Giant Jam Sandwich' written Janet Burroway, illus. John Vernon Lord, pub. Red Fox isbn 1849413444

No comments:

Post a Comment