This is a truly beautiful book, delivering the full package of wonderful illustration and amazing writing / translation, with not a word out of place. The author, Toon Tellegren is Dutch, and known in his own country for his stories about ants and squirrels. Marc Boutavant is French, known for the Mouk series. Kiwi author Bill Nagelkerke is the translator, and he has done a masterful job.
The first thing that strikes you about the book is the quality of its illustration. The style is almost vintage, with a wonderful paint and wash feel. This is preserved by the wonderful production standards, and a luxurious choice of paper stock. My first instinct upon bringing it home was to wish I could paper my walls with the pages, while still preserving the book in all its glory!
Each animal featured in the stories within these pages is dealing with a facet of anger. Poor Hyrax rails impotently against the sun setting, while Elephant rails against his own clumsy determination to climb a tree. Sensitive artist Mouse is sold sorrow by a lobster, after a Pandora’s Box of anger is opened for him to choose from; while Hedgehog realises that he hasn’t yet experienced anger, so goes out of his way to make himself angry.
There are also relationship-related angers, including irrational rage, irrational stubbornness, seeming insanity, and general irritation (all of which I am very familiar with).
My favourite story in the book is a rather gentle one involving best friends, ant and squirrel. While my son is only 4, the type of slightly circular conversation they have is very familiar.
“If I told you I was going away on a trip,” the ant asked the squirrel, “would you be sad?”… “Yes, I’d be sad,” said the squirrel. “But if I said you couldn’t go, would you be angry?”
This is a collection of stories to share with everybody you know. Rather than seeing anger as a weakness, it celebrates its strength. It acknowledges that every person will react to things differently, but that this is natural and good. Some are supremely calm, like squirrel, while some just cannot be pleased when they are in a certain frame of mind – or, y’know, upright: like the Aardvark. The final story sees that a world without anger is a homogenous world: at this point, the only emotion is a general worry, as each animal tries games to kick-start a new emotion.
I urge you to buy this book for your family for Christmas, whatever their ages. It is reminiscent of no other book, a unique gem.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
The Day No One Was Angry
by Toon Tellegen, and Marc Boutavant
Translated by Bill Nagelkerke
Published by Gecko Press