Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Great and Complicated Adventure by Toon Tellegan, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg


You're going to get tired of all the gushing but I've read so many wonderful books, lately, and A Great and Complicated Adventure by Toon Tellegen is one of my favorites.  A book of children's short stories, it has sweet, simple pen and watercolor illustrations of its animal characters. I took A Great and Complicated Adventure with me to Oxford when we went to visit Kiddo, about a month ago.  Within the 154 pages are 19 short stories.  I loved them so much that I stayed in the car to read while the guys traipsed into Walmart (to get a glass repair kit -- you might remember our windshield got smacked by either a bullet or BB) and finished the reading on my son's futon when we returned to his apartment.

I'm just going to tell you about one of the stories so you can get an idea what they're like.  The first story is about a squirrel and an ant, unlikely friends who continue to show up throughout the book.  And, it begins like this:


One morning, just for fun, the squirrel baked a small cake of beech nuts and honey.  On the cake, in letters of melted sugar, he wrote:  
"Dear Ant,  
How are you?  
The Squirrel" 
"It's the thought that counts," he said to himself.  He stopped for a moment and felt proud of his thought.  "It's a good thought," he thought, "and what's more, it's a surprise.  It isn't the ant's birthday, and there isn't anything else to celebrate.  It's an unexpected thought."

The story goes on with the ant responding in kind, creating a letter of his own for the squirrel, made from cream and stewed chestnuts with letters of oak honey.  The squirrel proceeds to eat his treat and think about how delicious it is, then he wipes away a bit of honey, "the question mark that was hanging from the end of his nose." 

The story doesn't feel entirely complete and yet it does.  It's simply story about friendship and most of the stories in A Great and Complicated Adventure are similar in that they're about friendship, curiosity, creativity, kindness. They are sweet stories.

This book doesn't lend itself well to being propped open for photography, so I held it open to a favorite spread to give you an peek at the illustrations:


Highly recommended - Sweet little stories about friendship and imagination with utterly delightful illustrations.  The stories don't always feel complete in the traditional sense, but the more I read, the fonder I became of the author's unique style and found myself smiling and even chuckling a bit.  When I closed the book, I longed for more.  Such a pleasurable reading experience.  I particularly loved the stories about the unlikely, sunny friendship between Ant and Squirrel.

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