The Hyde Park Squirrels written by Nick Croydon and illustrated by Petra Brown is a new Children’s Book series about a couple of red squirrels and their adventures, many of which are set in familiar territory but with an adorable animal-kingdom spin. It is published by Hyde Park Editions. In a nutshell (see what I did there?) these are gorgeously decorated tales with enough substance to keep a child engaged.Hyde Park Editions have been ever so lovely as to send me the first two books of the series, Luke goes to London, and Luke and Holly Join Forces.
“Luke and Holly Bushtail were born in the New Forest but were separated when young. Their parents travelled to America in search of riches, and said they would send for the young red squirrels once they had settled, but that is the last they heard. Holly went to live with great-uncle George MacDonald in Hyde Park, London, and Luke stayed with his Uncle Peter and aunt Sally in New Forest. When Luke learns he has a sister, he travels to find her…”
The actual stories have a nice weight to them. A kid with an attention span would be required to enjoy them fully, but the pictures are enough to amuse little brothers and sisters at bedtime as well. The large print serif font is pleasing to the eye, so even after a long day at work, it will be an easy read for the parents out there! The storyline moves quickly. Perhaps a little too quickly. I found myself frowning at the general ease that Luke would take to strangers, but that may be because I was brought up in the height of the ‘stranger danger’ era, have no quarrel with relating animals to humans instantly, and am overprotective over my nephews and would probably go ape if some stranger spoke to them. Especially a predatory fox with super sharp teeth… hmmm.
BUT, as a harmless tale of adventure and *feel-good* factor, The Hyde Park Squirrels series is very nice. The main antagonists for the cute animals are for once not their natural predators (well, not wholly anyway), which is a refreshing change.
The artwork by Brown is exquisite. I’m no expert, but I believe it is watercolour. My personal experience with such art media has always been an incomprehensible, blurred mess of mixed browns and wilting sheets of paper. (As a Piscean, I can’t help but drown the paint). But Brown has a certain mastery over the page. Her colours are muted but make an impact. The backgrounds would look like blobs and squiggles by anyone else, but Brown transports you straight into London’s Hyde Park without a doubt (well, maybe just into any park, but it’s still impressive!) Yet what I love most of all are the characters. The outline is sketched, giving a soft appearance inkeeping with the tone of watercolour. The shading and little details however, are what bring the characters truly to life. I can’t imagine a kid that wouldn’t take one look at the dazzling breast of the pigeons or policeman badger as he strolled on the beat without being amazed. Dabs of colour melding into one another rather than blocks lift the characters from the page and give them an almost 3D quality. Basically what I’m saying is “pretty”.
The quality of the printed book is good. The hardback is quite flexible, and I would bet it withstanding abuse on a bookshelf but it can’t withstand the might of the Royal Mail. A small bash to the packaging while it was sent to me means the corner has creased. The pages have a nice feel to the touch, with a waxy sheen that protects them from sticky fingers, but don’t go spilling water on it from the bedside table. They can handle some enthusiastic pressure, like a baby fluttering it around with all its might, but too much pressure to the inner corners of each page and it starts to pull from its binding quite easily.
In conclusion, this is a lovely start to a series. The storyline is a bit of fun and I like the use of real world geography, so you could easily visit and recognise the squirrels’ adventures.