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Book Review – HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAGPUSS Foreword by Peter Firmin

ISBN 978-1-909397-33—0 Story by Kate Haxell using Illustrations, projects, and written material from the Bagpuss albums. Additional new illustrations by Peter Firmin.

Published by Collins & Brown Publication date: 20 February 2014

RRP £11.99

Content

a story and activity book on the theme of Bagpuss. The famous cloth cat (Bagpuss) is 40 years old (2014), so the book has been released to mark the occasion and to celebrate a slice of TV history.


Introduction

Foreword is by Peter Firmin, who, along with the late, Oliver Postgate was the founder of Smallfilms for the BBC. Firmin produced artwork, models and props for Bagpuss in the 1970s. Narrator Postgate also filmed sequences in his signature stop motion style also seen in children’s programmes such as Clangers and Ivor the Engine. Only thirteen Bagpuss episodes were made with the first broadcast in 1974. Bagpuss was repeated many times over the following decades.

Range of information 8/10
activities: sewing projects and an embroidery sampler; a recipe for sugar mice; a knitting project (Bagpuss) a board and counter game (repeated at the rear), colouring page, etc. Stitch chart included. Knitting and sewing patterns (require enlarging) All activities are led by a story which brings all the characters and elements together, just like one of the TV episodes.

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Quality of information 8/10
We have not checked the patterns but we believe the projects have been in circulation for some time so are confident that they will work out. Suitability From 3 years with adult supervision, age appropriateness varies however, the creative project work requires sewing and pattern cutting skills, knitting pattern deciphering and steps require more skills than that in first knitting. The embroidery project requires the close following of a stitch chart. Tapestry needle and scissor use. To get the most out of the book we’d say from 8 years through to adult.
Photography and illustrations work to show ‘what to do’ and to display an end result. Instructions are clear enough for a relative beginner.

Layout 7/10

It is a hardback book that is 276 x 210 mm (h x w). Original artwork of Bagpuss and his friends feature on the front and back of the cover which has bold pink and white, glossy, stripes, designed to appeal to children. Inside the text varies in style, size and colour which encourages the reader to add emphasis and speed up and slow down the pace when reading out loud.

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Photography/Illustration 8/10

Has over 50 photographs and illustrations, and, even though the book’s presentation is not sincere to the vintage feel, or to the Victorian b/w imagery in the opening sequence of the TV shows, the illustrations are visually eye catching and memorable from a child’s perspective.

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Features 7/10
Some projects are really special, a stitched and stuffed Madeleine rag doll and the little felt mice, and the words ‘Bagpuss dear Catpuss’ in embroidery makes a memory evoking keepsake. A free gift would have been a nice addition.

Conclusion
This book has an identity problem. It is particularly hard to categorize and gauge suitability. It is a children’s picture storybook in design, so it is not a purely whimsical book for someone older to possess. in fact you do not need to know of Bagpuss or his friends to enjoy it. And the appeal navigates further still to include anyone who likes toy making. Young children will enjoy the visual, and the story being read aloud to them, and so, will get something from certain elements within. This is also a nostalgia book for those who were a parent themselves, or a child in fact, in the early 1970s. In a changed format this could have been a beautiful craft style/keepsake book if the Victorian theme made up more of its presentation, and some of the primary coloured pages could have been toned down or omitted altogether, but if this were the case Happy Birthday Bagpuss would not have sat so happily on the shelves of a children’s book department. Incorporated in this book is a little something for almost everyone is the best way to describe it.

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Visit www.anovabooks.com

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