The Red Scarf: My Favorite Slapstick Title of ’10

h1 March 1st, 2010 by jules

Won’t you join me for a brief moment as I shine the spotlight on a picture book import? I picked this one up at my local library fairly recently and immediately contacted the publisher about sharing some spreads from it. Canadian illustrator Anne Villeneuve’s nearly wordless picture book, The Red Scarf, was originally published in French as L’Echarpe Rouge in 1999, and it won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. It was released last month by Tundra Books and leapt off the new-books shelf in the library, calling my name loudly with its colorful, action-packed cover. Villeneuve’s work is not well known here in the States, but I hope that changes one day.

Publishers Weekly calls this title, aptly, a “gentle slapstick routine,” adding “Villeneuve’s creation brims with insouciant charm; it’s a lovely addition to a bookshelf.” I can describe it to you, but it’s best to take in the art and then try to find a copy yourself, as the story leaps off the page. Nevertheless, quick summary: Turpin, a taxi-driving mouse—always depicted in loose black-and-white lines, despite the burgeoning colors around him—faces, as we see on the opening spread, “{a}nother gray day” — or so he thinks.


A magician hops inside his taxi, leaving his red scarf. The ever-conscientious Turpin chases him down to return the accessory and ends up doing more than he bargained for on stage at the circus into which he followed the magician. Check it out: I love this moment…

Now, see? I told you a written summary wouldn’t quite suffice, but you’ll want to see a copy, what with Villeneuve’s expert composition, colorful crayon palette, sprawling spreads teeming with energy, not to mention the great humor and overall kickin’ style of the tale. Did I mention the medium is crayon? I love to see crayon done well, and I think it’s particularly inspiring for children to see what can be done with the one medium available to most all of them. (Pretty much where ever a kid turns in life, there can be and will likely be crayons, no matter the socioeconomic status at hand.)

A delightful read. Now, every time I describe a picture book as “delightful,” I imagine myself with a frilly tea cup in hand, one pinky sticking out — myself far-removed from the child reader. (What child says “Mommy, this book is just delightful!”? Makes me think of that time Roger Sutton gave the word “amusing” hell — at least as used in reviews.) But it truly does delight and entertain and it’s funny as all get-out and I hope to see more from Villeneuve in the future.

* * * * * * *

THE RED SCARF. Illustrations copyright © 1999 by Anne Villeneuve. (English language translation by Tundra Books, 2010.) Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tundra Books, Ontario.

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7 comments to “The Red Scarf: My Favorite Slapstick Title of ’10”

  1. Go Canada Go! Go Cana…oops, sorry, Olympics are over already.

    Cool style…this one was new to me, despite the national award(s).


  2. Oh, I lurv Turpin! Look at his nose :). So cool that he’s in black and white. And that first circus spread — you can just feel the emotion. Thanks for finding this book and giving us a peek!


  3. Crayons! Such happy art! I love Anne’s website, too — would really like to get one of her beautiful watercolor boat scenes, like this one: http://www.annevilleneuve.com/Galerie_en.html


  4. Jill, thanks, ’cause I couldn’t find her web site. Tried more than once. Der.

    So glad you linked it…


  5. Delightful indeed. I find it amusing that it took 10 years for this book to be re-released as an “English Translation” for me to see it…when the book’s charm lies in illustration and the text’s simplicity barely needs translation at all!
    Nevertheless, your posting with illustrations led me to your blog, and for that I am grateful.


  6. Thanks, Craig. Nice to cyber-meet you!


  7. From the illustrations, I can say that that is such a hilarious book. A scarf illustrated that way, such a comedic appeal to it.


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