Sunday, 15 March 2015



Francois David & Raphael Urwiller
From the poem by Lewis Carroll

We first encountered Jabberwocky a year or so ago when we were in Bologna for the annual children’s book fair.  It was an achingly beautiful Italian edition with a real handmade quality to it but being the end of the fair and funds being low, we left it behind.  This was a book we saw and deliberated over for a few minutes, but never forgot.  We have always regretted not buying that book.  This year we were able to buy an edition published by French publisher Sarbacane.  It doesn't have the same glorious tactile quality to it but the artwork is reproduced beautifully and finally we have a Jabberwocky of our very own.

François David’s text when translated is simple and poetic.  This variation of the original text is both atmospheric and compact.  It tells the tale of young boy who sets off to slay the mysterious, terrifying Jabberwocky, known here as le dragragoula.  Once slain, he returns to his father with its head.  We are only sorry that our French isn’t good enough to translate the joys of the text fully.  

Raphaël Urwiller’s two colour screen printed illustrations are mesmerising; he has created a world full of strange and fantastical creatures with only a few simple shapes and lines.  He hints at this world: at the rocks, the trees and the animals hiding within.  He only ever gives us enough to draw us further in, to urge us to look closer; subtlety and understatement are key.  He has cleverly overlaid his red and green to make a third, darker colour, and the white of the page is utilised as a fourth; this is design of the highest order and a lesson to illustrators everywhere.  Hours will be lost to studying this imagery.  

Le dragragoula himself is like a shimmer of ribbon with a lion’s head, nightmarish as he zig zags through the tree line but he is no match for our hero, and their encounter, when the two finally meet, is presented as an explosive burst upon the page.  The next time we see this fearsome creature it is as the small boy drags his heavy severed head.  

We urge you not to make the mistake we made: if you see any book you love, buy it, and if you ever see this book for sale, be sure to buy it.  This is a book once seen, never forgotten and an absolute must-have for print enthusiasts.

Fun fact:  Illustrator Raphaël Urwiller is of the co-founders of Icinori, creators of Issun Boshi: The One-Inch Boy.

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