Review: The Boy Who Knew Nothing by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon.
Once there was a boy who knew nothing, nothing at all. When he went to school, all the other children pointed at him and made fun until the boy didn’t want to learn. Then, one day at home, he found something strange in the attic. A pink, feathery something with a long neck and a beak.
The boy sets off with his new friend in tow, in search of answers, and a journey of learning and discovery begins …
A beautiful, imaginative tale about the joys and challenges of learning.
The most difficult thing about learning a new subject – at any age – is accepting that you know very little to begin with. This is difficult enough for children if they feel behind their peers. It causes adults no end of bother. They think they left learning behind years ago, that they should be able to write or paint or do whatever it is like an adult. When it turns out they are still beginners, they become frustrated or embarrassed. Which is a pity, because every hour of learning builds their skills.
This book follows a child who is afraid to learn. It looks at the causes – the teasing and self-consciousness he encounters when he gets things wrong – and then at what sets him on his way. When he finds something in the attic, a question forms in the boy’s mind, and he can’t stop until he understands.
When we remember our education, we too often recall trying to get things right. But the most exciting moments, surely, were when we got so interested in something that we couldn’t stop trying until we learned more. The Boy Who Knew Nothing celebrates the joy and excitement of gaining new knowledge, and remind us not to be afraid of trying.
The story is told in a cheery rhyme which reminds me of Dr Seuss. It introduces us to an everyday child in the everyday world, then everything turns upside-down as fantastical things happen in the boy’s life.
The illustrations are striking. They remind me of Art Nouveau, except for the vibrant pinks and greens. The style is certainly unique and special among picture books, and it would be lovely to have some colouring pages to accompany this title. I imagine lots of readers will have a go at their own drawings.
The perfect story for anybody who is nervous to learn. It is joyful and clever and filled with optimism.
Thanks to Templar Books for my copy of The Boy Who Knew Nothing. Opinions my own.