Review Blog

Jul 19 2010

The serpent's tale by Gary Crew and Matt Ottley

cover image

Lothian, 2010. ISBN 9780734410283.
Picture book. Playing on the word 'tale' by both author and illustrator gives the reader a tantalising narrative about the universality of story in this picture book for all ages. The boy pesters his mother into buying him an amulet at the market. The metal charm is of a snake grabbing its own tail, and the boy when asleep dreams the dreams of the ages. From the first men, fighting for survival, to times of war, discovery and loss, the tale of man is the same, beginning anew with each generation. When the boy wakes the next morning, his mother opens the curtain onto a world at war, and implores him to pack and run, to see what the story will be in the future.
The tale of men is the same tale, and the snake and its tail appear on most pages, emphasizing the place a story in our lives. Ottley's illustrations parallel and augment the story, taking the story onto another level altogether, with his scenes of war and destruction, juxtaposed with scenes of a mother's love, courage, and a possible future. The snake can be picked out even on the endpapers, and will cause delight with younger readers. Each illustration has a hidden depth and will entice readers to look past what they first see, to discover parallels and hints of differing episodes in man's story.
Overlaid with the whiff of myth and legend, the book will initiate much discussion in classes across the board, as the students delve into the nature of story, its place in our world and its universality.
Fran Knight

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