Subtlety. Not a word you instantly associate with products for the Under 7s. Hide and Seek, Anthony Browne’s 50th picture book, is a masterpiece, and its genius is in its subtlety.
Goldie the dog has gone missing. To cheer themselves up, siblings Cy and Poppy play hide and seek in the woods. They enter a timeless world of surprises in the dark. The wood is bigger and stranger than they expected, and as they lose sight of each other, there is a sense that anything could be lurking around the corner.
The reader is drawn into the game of hide and seek. An array of objects are cleverly hidden within the pictures, from furniture, to musical instruments, paws and crocodiles. The game is challenging – certainly, some objects are a little easier to find, so children won’t give up straight away, but other objects are cleverly hidden into the pictures different shades and tones. This is a book which family members of all ages can share, and enjoy together.
A sense of foreboding is created with light and dark, and with perspective. The trees seem taller and more numerous when the children are afraid. When the story is resolved, the woods look brighter, and are viewed again at child height. I also love how indoors looks confining at the start of the story, but when the children run home, their caravan at the edge of the woods looks like a warm and welcoming place.
Clues in the hide and seek game hint at the happy ending, and build up to the moment of revelation. The pictures themselves are divine. Did I tell you how much I loved autumn? This book is a celebration of the season, with bare branches and leaves every shade of red and gold and brown.
Anthony Browne is undoubtedly a master of the picture book form, and his books are truly beautiful.
Please note: images are cropped from originals to show details.
HUGE thanks to Sarah Hastelow and Penguin Random House for sending a copy in exchange for review. This does not affect my honesty.
Do you have a favourite Anthony Browne? Let me know in the comments below.