Sunday 5 July 2015

On Sudden Hill

A beautiful story about imaginative play and making new friends
Written by Linda Sarah
Illustrated by Benji Davies
Simon and Schuster 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4711-1928-6 (HB)
ISBN: 978-1-4711-1929-3 (PB)
Library Copy
Back of the Book

Birt and Etho are best friends. They spend hours together playing on Sudden Hill. Then one day a new boy arrives. He wants to join them.Can two become three?
A timeless, poignant and heartfelt book from the internationally acclaimed illustrator of The Storm Whale.

The Story

Birt and Etho have a special friendship and they spend their days playing on their beloved Sudden Hill. With two large cardboard boxes, they can be anything-pirates, kings, soldiers or astronauts. Then one day, a boy called Shu arrives with another cardboard box and suddenly, two becomes three. Birt is not so keen to begin with.....

More from Missus B

A grassy hill, some cardboard boxes, two friends, some sunshine, a whole lot of imagination...... and we have the perfect recipe for childhood nostalgia. It really is difficult to read this story without feeling wistful for those endless summer days of fun, freedom and make-believe play.

My most treasured childhood memories, are those of making dens in fields, building huts with hay bails and using odds and ends of household rubbish to create something of my own. This book took me right back and had me wanting to sit up there on Sudden Hill with Etho, Birt, Shu and their cardboard boxes.

On the title page, we see a country  farmyard scene and two young boys venturing over a gate into a field. In the background, we see the lovely Sudden Hill with it's leaning tree, waiting to offer shade, a climb or a swing. Birt and Etho trundle up the hill with their giant cardboard boxes and through poetic text, we read of their play adventures...

Sometimes they're kings,

soldiers, astronauts.
Sometimes they're pirates
sailing wild seas and skies.

But always, always

they're Big Friends.

We see them flying paper planes, gathering sticks, collecting frogs in jars...two friends enjoying the freedom to play in nature....

..watching small movements

in the valley and feeling
big as Giant Kings.

On Sudden Hill Book
These boys have a 'two-by-two rhythm'
The beautiful illustrations include large page-filled scenes as well as smaller vignettes.There is much to be admired-small details like the buttercups, swallows and flying insects and background characters like the curious bunny rabbit, the toy robot or the farmyard hens. 

To me, what appeals most about the illustrations is, the sense of living nature on every page- the grass on Sudden Hill appears to be swishing in a breeze, the clouds roll across the sky, while the colours and hues perfectly capture the changing light of morning, evening and night. 

The characters of Birt, Etho and Shu are simply drawn yet expressive- at times when their faces lack expression (sometimes they don't even have mouths), their body language and movements perfectly share their emotions.

Through the author's poetic style, this story describes a social situation which many children will be familiar with. As far as Birt is concerned, he and Etho are two peas in a pod...but then Shu arrives and life changes for Birt. Etho welcomes a new friend, but Birt begins to distance himself.

On Sudden Hill Book
'Birt feels a bit strange'  
He doesn't say anything and keeps himself to himself .His smile is
gone- in fact, he has no mouth at all.
Etho and Shu
call round sometimes.
Birt avoids them.

Instead he stays at home

mostly drawing pictures of two boxes, side-by-side.

But he misses Etho.

He misses their cardboard
castles on Sudden Hill.

Many emotions are captured between the illustrations and the text-comfort, joy, caution, jealousy and in particular, loneliness. It's hard not to empathise with Birt and this tricky situation. Thankfully though, Etho and Shu are determined to have Birt back on Sudden Hill. With their cardboard boxes, they create 'An incredible Monster Creature Box Thing!'  They arrive at Birt's doorstep and he just cannot resist- this fantastic creation has WHEELS!

So, after a day of supersonic rocket blasting and other imaginative adventures, Birt adjusts himself to a new 'three-by-three rhythm' and learns to love 'their Etho-Shu-Birt-iness'.

On Sudden Hill Book
Three friends and their 'incredible Monster Creature Box Thing!'
In short
Oh, this book is like a snuggly pair of slippers-it just gives you that toasty, familiar feeling.
As an adult reader, I love that 'On Sudden Hill' transports me back to warm, sunny fields and carefree play in the countryside. 
As an adult reader sharing this book with a child, I have no doubt that listeners will connect with the play, social interactions and friendship messages within this story. 
Eloquently written, beautifully illustrated, 'On Sudden Hill' is a charming and timeless story. A book-for-keeps, this is one that deserves generations of love and cherishing.

Happy reading,

Missus B

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If you're like me, this book will probably inspire you to take out some cardboard boxes and sticky tape! Check out this lovely Pinterest Board of Cardboard box fun from The Garden House Preschool.

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