Mister Magnolia

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Mister Magnolia By Quentin BlakeAnimals often seem to be the main focus of children’s poetry, but Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake is the story of a poor man who had only one boot:

‘He has green parakeets

who pick holes in his suit –

And some very fat owls

who are learning to hoot –

But Mr Magnolia

has only one boot.’

Mister Magnolia may sound like a sorry character, but lacking a boot doesn’t seem to stop him having fun. He dances while his two sisters play the flute, takes children for a ride on his scooter, and juggles with fruit at the market stall.

This is a light-hearted piece of narrative poetry that has a happy ending as a little girl presents Mister Magnolia with a parcel that contains another boot. It doesn’t match the one he already has, but never mind, it’s a boot, and Mister Magnolia is deliriously happy. It might seem like a strange story, but Quentin Blake is of course the genius behind the illustrations to Roald Dahl’s books, and he has provided wonderful coloured drawings to his own story here. We are introduced to Mister Magnolia’s purple dinosaur, and we see our hero splashing down a water chute and saluting to a parade of mice. There is plenty here to capture the imagination of young children.

There are never more than five lines of text per page, in fact often just one or two. The text is in a clear font that is always on a white background, so there are no problems in deciphering the words. This makes Mister Magnolia a book that could be suitable for young independent readers as well as one for reading aloud. There are one or two challenging words such as ‘parakeets’ and ‘magnificent’, but the use of rhyme often helps a reader along, as do illustrations.

The illustrations appear in colour on every page of the book, making it bright and appealing. Although the colours are vivid, they are certainly not lurid as in some contemporary picture books. Blake’s use of watercolour gives them a delightful quality.

This is a book that will not take long to read to a child who has a short attention span. The drawings, however, are worth stopping to take a closer look at. In Mister Magnolia’s pond, a frog and a newt are dancing together on a lily pad while a toad looks on; a mouse is tickling Mister Magnolia’s bare foot with an ear of wheat as a snail creeps away. For any adult looking to make it a more educational experience, there are opportunities for counting or identifying different types of fruit.

Mister Magnolia is definitely worth adding to your children’s home library. As well as the full size book, there is a Mini Treasure version (also published by Red Fox) that measures 5.5 in. x 4 in. The book is likely to appeal to children aged from three up to perhaps six.

If only we were all so easily pleased as Mister Magnolia, with two odd boots…

Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake, Paperback, 32 pages


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Mister Magnolia
by Quentin Blake

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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