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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

December 06, 2005

Best picture books ever

Much as I may rant about how everything these days is false and tainted with photoshoppage to give it a sugar frosting, you have to hand it to these people.

As a child I spent most of my time either out in the countryside or dark-holed up in my lonely garret browsing picture books about natural history.

You see, most of the men on my father's side of the family were agricultural labourers or piece workers. It was in my blood, and by the age of six I was able to differentiate between the eggs of a pheasant and a partridge on the basis of colour alone.

And so I had my shelf of picture books, covering birds, butterflies, insects, flowers, trees, fish. Each one a door into another world. Each book like an item of treasure to me.

Now, thirty-five years on, as a sorry-looking failed computer salesman, I still have those books. Some of them, to my cynical modern eye, are, frankly, rubbish. Completely unsuitable for casual browsing in the modern loungeplace.

Today's youngsters, though, if they were able to withdraw themselves from txting, up-skirt music videos on their iPod telephones, or pornography on the Internet, would find themselves spoiled by the quality of picture book available today.

I just bought Wild Guides, Britain's Butterflies, by David Tomlinson and Rob Still. The illustrations are lavish, though perhaps on the gaudy side of the colour management spectrum. And each page consists in a photoshopped collage of butterflies in their habitat with pictures of the various stages of their life cycle.

Like everything else that is modern, it leaves nothing to the imagination.

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