The High Street, written and illustrated by Alice Melvin
Oh my, how I love Alice Melvin's newest picture book, The Hight Street! I suppose, if you have skimmed through enough of my raving reviews of certain picture books, you will have learned that I adore almost any book that has to do with food and/or domestic comforts. I love the book even more if if reminds me of a favorite from my childhood. The Hight Street manages to score a double here as it is about a little girl who goes shopping and, for some reason, it reminds me very much of a favorite of mine, the British classic from 1970, Mog the Forgetful Cat, by Judith Kerr.
The premise of The Hight Street is sweet and simple, but the execution is brilliant. The book begins,
Sally is in the High Street and this is what she needs...
a yellow rose,
a garden hose,
a bunch of grapes,
some roller skates,
a tin kazoo,
a Persian rug,
a stripy jug,
a cherry tart,
a candy heart.
The well rhymed text takes Sally up and down the High Street as she shops for the things on her list. Each page shows her about to enter the store, then the gatefold opens to reveal the inside of the store from top to bottom. Mr Foggins' sweet shop shows the candy store on the ground floor and the candy makers busily at work in the factory one floor up. The interior of Mr Botton's bakery shows a storefront on the ground floor and a cozy tea room upstairs. After every page and every purchase Sally leaves the store listing all the things on her list that she didn't find, but the one thing that she did.
As Sally continues down the High Street doing her shopping, she gets everything on her list except for one last item, which she finds she doesn't even need to buy and it all works out in the end. While The Hight Street has a very 1960s feel to it, Melvin does a wonderful job putting all kinds of people in her book that might not have been in a children's book from fifty years ago. As with most great picture books, it is the simplest of stories that capture our imagination the most. While this may seem like it is just the story of a girl doing her marketing, going from shop to shop, there is a bit of suspense that builds as she ticks things off her list and the multitude of items in each varied store is endlessly interesting. The lilting rhymes and the excitement of finding out what is behind each storefront will keep kids listening. A visual treat, The Hight Street is printed on thick, marvelous pages and is filled with elegant, crisp, detail rich illustrations from Melvin. If you are even the tiniest bit interested in design, paper, print and decorative arts, check out Alice Melvin's website where, among other great things, you can find a "cut out and make menagerie."