Was it the roving eyes on the cover (they actually move!)? The use of the word In-Fred-ible? Or simply the cuteness of his face? I can’t be sure, but I fell in love with Fred the panda instantaneously. It was love at first read.
Let’s Find Fred is the latest offering from author/illustrator Steven Lenton, illustrator of Shifty McGifty by Tracey Corderoy, various Frank Cottrell-Boyce books, and Princess Daisy and the Nincompoop Knights.
Each night Stanley the zoo keeper tucks up his animals in their beds, but by the time he reaches Fred to read him his bedtime story, Fred has escaped – on an adventure filled with dreams of candyfloss, balloons and parties. As any parent of more than one child will know, this is a common occurrence – the little rascals often escape from their beds in search of night-time adventures.
What follows is a panda chase through the town. This is where the book turns magical, for each spread is set in a different vicinity of the town, and unfortunately for Stanley, there are panda images everywhere, or things that look suspiciously like Fred, but aren’t – from black and white dogs in a limousine, to black and white footballs in the newspaper.
But most cleverly, as Steven highlights below – are the numerous adult cultural references, more often than not with a little bit of Panda involved. I’ve had the book for weeks, and still not exhausted examining each spread. It’s the kind of book you read to your child at bedtime, but then whisk out of the room so that you can peruse it yourself later, but also so that they don’t grab a torch and read it after lights out, having their own little panda-themed night-time adventure. And without further panda-monium, here is Steven to tell you about how much fun he had writing/drawing the book:
My picture books have become known for their extra details and layers of additional humour. I think it’s important that both children and the parents who read books at bedtime have fun doing so. For example in the Shifty McGifty series there is a spider on every double spread of the picture books and twenty spiders to find in each of the fiction titles. In Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights there is a mischievous little snail to spot and in Let’s Find Fred there’s a little white butterfly…
To date, Let’s Find Fred is certainly my busiest book! There is a fun narrative that follows the exhausting chase of Stanley and Fred, but the most fun is the re-readability, and oodles of extra characters and little relationships to spot in all the larger ‘zoomed out’ spreads.
Because there are so many characters in the book I thought it would be great fun to base some of the characters on real people, and a few characters mums and dads might know too – extra talking points for family discussion if you like!
One of the first characters I added was Kylie – there was always going to be a carousel in the funfair spread and it instantly reminded me of the hilariously juddery Carousel in the ‘Got To Be Certain’ video – watch it on YouTube with a cuppa, it’s really (quite) funny.
Other familiar faces to find include;
- Four Beatles (not beetles!)
- Numerous famous paintings in the art gallery spread – The Panda with the Pearl Earring and Whistler’s Panda to name but two…
- Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the inspiration behind my twitter name @2dscrumptious!)
- The Panda of the Opera
- Fred Astaire
- A grandma reading Fifty Sheds in Grey
- And Panda Travolta
And so many more.
I was at a wedding recently and I took along a copy of Fred for the children there – the first read through went well, but then what followed was LITERALLY HOURS of Fred-based finding! We turned the book into a game of ‘Can you find the…’ and it entertained not only the children, but also the adults, who we encouraged to look for the tiniest of details. My tip is to start by finding Fred, then the white butterfly, and then start finding one-off things in the book such as the veeeeeeeeeery long sausage dog (somewhere in the gallery).
I really hope that everyone gains as much enjoyment from Fred, as I and the Scholastic team had when making it!
With huge thanks to Steven for sending across his thoughts. You can buy Let’s Find Fred here. Please do, you’ll love the text as much as I do “He’s a panda and it’s past his bedtime!”, and you can tell me where the white butterfly is hiding…