Review Blog

Jan 25 2009

Garibaldi's biscuits by Ralph Steadman

cover image

Andersen Press, 2008.
(Ages: 5+) A fun story with a light hearted take on Garibaldi's ambition to reunite Italy. In Steadman's version Garibaldi's soldiers have huge belt buckles made of pizza (handy if you're feeling peckish on the battle field) and their bright red shirts do an excellent job of concealing all the tomato sauce that they spill while consuming said pizzas.

Steadman's illustrations complement the irreverent narrative beautifully. It's the expressions on his soldiers' faces that I find most accomplished. In one illustration the snoozing soldiers are being roused for battle, and Steadman conveys perfectly their bemused and disgruntled expressions.

The children I read this to were most amused by the demise of the pizza belt buckles which, of course, resulted in the soldiers' pantaloons falling down. The fact that the soldiers were fighting with water filled balloons at the time added to the hilarity, and the picture of Garibaldi's men, trousers round their ankles, waving brightly coloured balloons at the Bourbons was a real highlight for my seven year olds.

Added to this is Steadman's fable of how Garibaldi and Bourbon biscuits came into being, and if reading this aloud, it is essential to have a packet of each handy to illustrate the finer points of the story. At the back of the book is a nicely pitched explanation describing something of the real Garibaldi, not to mention the origin of those biscuits!
Claire Larson

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