Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Reciting Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tale: 'Jim who ran away from nurse and was eaten by a lion' was a party piece of mine when younger. As part of some volunteer action with the Girl Guides we occasionally toured Old Peoples' Homes and put on a bit of a 'show': My recitations came somewhere in between singing in rounds and  the passing about of home made peppermint creams. We probably helped loosen the will to live of several.

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.

 And here is Eddie's Christmas recitation with accompanying upstaging by Bill for those that don't know the full poem. Apologies because I did once post this link before, but in a ham fisted way with no review or context so wanted to do the book justice now. It is shameful Proud Mummy parading but he's not going to be cute for much longer so I hope you'll indulge me.
'Jim- a Cautionary Tale' by Hillaire Belloc and Mini Grey, published Jonathan Cape
isbn 978-0-224-08367-6


  1. Oh, this is definitely going on my wish list. I loved Cautionary Tales when I was younger (still do of course) and the Mini Grey version is so me. Hope my girls like it too :lol:

    Both your boys are adorable! xx

    1. adorable not normally the word first found when describing them... but thank you.

  2. well the Oscar has to go to EDDIE for dedication in the face of overwhelming distraction ... but Bill is destined for the RSC.

    1. He'd certainly be good at exiting pursued by bear.