It may have been an unconscious desire to give me a dose of what she had had to endure (I had to practice for those Old Folk after all) that my lovely stepmother gave Eddie and Bill a copy of Mini Grey's pop up transformation of 'Jim'. She couldn't have known how effective it would prove. Whether it's a genetic propensity that draws them to it or whether Belloc is just very catchy indeed, recitation skills are alive and blossoming in the house.
The poem is, I have to say, the perfect vehicle for Mini Grey's dark and anarchic rich illustrative humour. Poor pallid and weedy Jim is force fed treats, cramped onto tiny trikes, bored stupid by repetitious stories and neglected by his flirtatious nurse. His race towards the lion looks like a break for the blessings of oblivion in an overly trammeled existence. At any rate, neither he nor we seem to mind too much about his inevitable demise. Bill and Eddie gleefully open the flap revealing the disappearance of his body with just bloodied ankles, arms and head remaining. Not a pop up for a sensitive child admittedly: I've not looked at the reviews on Amazon but suspect there will be some horrified buyers sending back this abusive filth. Thankfully, my two aren't big on sensitivity; they LOVE the book.
The details of the pop up make the book as much a treat for the adult reader, a map of the zoo opens up to reveal a comprehensive set of rules to enjoy:
'No winking, no blinking,drinking,stinking or thinking.
No clapping, slapping, napping, tapping, flapping or yapping.
No yowling, howling, or prowling.
Don't try anything clever.'
A neat head shaped urn is lightly dusted at the end whilst Jim's controlled parents' dab their eyes with very mild regret.
A great choice of bedtime story at the end of a day when your own feelings about the benefits of parenthood may be running ragged: It gives you a brief glimpse of a vicarious alternative future and your children a little reminder to count their blessings. Once you've both enjoyed your separate frissons of delighted horror everyone can go to bed united, happy that there are no lions outside the door.