Come Away from the Water, Shirley

Publisher: Red Fox

Review

Shirley is visiting the beach with her mum and dad, but after they’re settled in their deckchairs (on what looks like a pebbly, perhaps slightly cold British beach somewhere), they aren’t that keen to play with Shirley.

Instead, Mum and Dad are full of tellings-off and warnings: don’t get any tar on your new shoes, don’t stroke the dog, don’t bring any of that smelly seaweed home. Yet Shirley is having a huge, colourful adventure, fighting pirates, finding buried treasure and crowning herself queen as the yellow moon rises over the black sea.

John Burningham’s simple yet sophisticated account of a trip to the seaside is both a masterly drawing of grumpy Mum and Dad paying the least attention possible to Shirley, and a vibrant – and wordless – depiction of Shirley’s inner world. Mum and Dad on the beach are drawn in simple pencil with sparse everyday detail; the facing pages showing Shirley’s adventures are rich, colourful and more painterly.

Shirley is literally “seen but not heard” – but that doesn’t stop her inhabiting her own magical, marvellous world. Fantastic.

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