Poka and Mia - Football
Author & Illustrator Kitty Crowther
Tate Publishing, 2014
Hbk, 32 pp, AUD $14.99 ISBN 9781849762427
Translator Ann Drummond in association with First Editions Translations Ltd.
French Edition: Poka & Mine, Le football l’ecole des loisirs, Paris 2010
Mia is a busy, energetic and curious-minded creature and Poka her patient, doting and occasionally put-upon father. When Mia and her father Poka stop for a rest while out walking one day, a football (soccer) game catches Mia’s eye.
Before you can ‘Astrid Lindgren Award winner’, Kitty Crowther’s adorable duo head off to buy football boots.
Bravo to Tate Publishing for bringing seven titles in the Poka and Mine series into English. So far, four titles have appeared. Poka and Mia’s indulgent relationship is not unlike that between Charlie and Lola, but with a more surreal, playful realm. (Other books in this series take readers on a trip to the cinema, an adventure in the garden and a domestic comedy involving a sleeping Poka.)
Mia’s first time on a football pitch, and fitting into the all-boy team, proves trickier than it looks: training ends in massive frustration and mild scorn from her would-be teammates. Worse, Mia must wait for all the boys to leave before she can have a shower. But she won’t give up and soon irrepressible Mia has a solution.
When Saturday comes, Mia is ready: nervous, but ready. Everything turns out for the best, and, walking home after the match, Mia spies a ballet school. 'Prepare to be surprised and to challenge stereotypes' is the message of this book.
Like Shaun Tan, (another Astrid Lindgren Award winner), Kitty Crowther conjures up worlds and creatures you won’t find in an encyclopedia; birds, insects and other animals defy categorisation and have a life of their own. In the six-legged world of Poka and Mia no two characters are the same and creates a space of play and possibility. Crowther’s impish sense of humour makes all of her books a lasting pleasure.
Hopefully The Poka and Mia books are a delightful entrée to the world of Kitty Crowther, an artist vastly under-appreciated by English-language readers. I can only echo the words of The Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler who has blurbed the series. “I’ve admired the enchanted world of Kitty Crowther for a long time and I’m happy that English speaking children can now get to know it as well.” Play on!
About Kitty Crowther
Kitty Crowther is not an artist easily pigeonholed. She was born in 1970 to an English father and Swedish mother, Kitty grew up in Belgium. She publishes mostly with French-based Pastel/l'ecole des loisirs. Her first book, Mon Royaume, appeared in 1994. She developed and nurtured her talent for writing and illustration at l’Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and further studies at l’Institut de Saint-Luc, where her talents were recognised and encouraged. She has since published more than 35 books.
Her illustrations have a soft line and hand-made look. The line is full of feeling and her use of colour is integral. Her stories seem to plunge effortlessly into a deep well of myth and folklore. While she predominately uses coloured pencil, her employment of white space is crucial to her books, inspired partly from a childhood love of Beatrix Potter. The images are don’t seem to be prettified; her line and colour maintain the intimacy of the artist’s hand.
“My concern, when I draw, is to convey an emotion, to accompany and not abandon the character at the end of the book.”
In September 2015 US publisher Enchanted Lion releases Scritch, Scratch, Dip, Clapote! under the English title English title Scritch, Scratch, Scraww, Plop. But any publisher taking on her books like Alors?, Mère médusa, Le petit homme et Dieu and Annie du lac would be doing English speaking readers a great favour.
Like Shaun Tan, Kitty Crowther revels in creating creatures that you won’t find in an encyclopedia; birds, insects and other animals that defy categorisation have a life of their own. Such creatures populate the world Kitty Crowther makes, enticing the reader to enter further in. I think that perhaps it’s the way her art can draw upon a sense of tradition, yet transform into something deeply personal and original makes her so special. She has an impish sense of humour that makes all of her books such a pleasure to read and reread.