Bird's eye views

24th July 1998 at 01:00
Rome Antics
By David Macaulay
Dorling Kindersley #163;9.99

The Green Ship
By Quentin Blake
Jonathan Cape #163;9.99

The Paradise Garden
By Colin Thompson
Jonathan Cape #163;9.99

The Snoops
By Miriam Moss
Illustrated by Delphine Durand
cTemplar #163;9.99

What Can You See?
By Paul Rogers
Illustrated by Kazuko
Doubleday #163;9.99

Say Cheese!
By David Pelham
Jonathan Cape #163;8.99

The best holiday picture books are those that help the reader get away from it all, see from new perspectives and take part in the action. The audience takes to the skies in David Macaulay's liberating Rome Antics, which incorporates a human love story and a carrier pigeon's adventures in a unique guide to the Eternal City.

Each spread shows a famous building or location from the viewpoint of the pigeon as she takes the scenic route home. She zooms, dives, loops the loop, dodges death and, near the church of Santa Maria della Pace, is "discombobulated".

Macaulay's drawing skills are breathtaking, and the means could hardly be simpler - black ink for the architectural settings and a red crayon to mark the bird's flight path. Fictional mysteries, puzzles and clues drift like feathers through the glimpses of ancient and contemporary Rome. As for the age range - the sky's the limit.

Quentin Blake also offers a great escape in The Green Ship. The narrator recalls the childhood summer when he and his sister discovered the garden of an eccentric elderly widow, Mrs Tredegar. With her old gardener, she keeps her late husband's memory alive with a large topiary ship. Celebrating friendship between the elderly and the young, the story shows richly imaginative play as all four sail to foreign parts by night and day.Blake's watercolour has never been so luminous, the hues various and subtle in effects. The nervous mobility of his pen and brush transmit complex states and feelings - the energy of nature, happiness, nostalgia, resilience, quietude.

Colin Thompson's young protagonist in The Paradise Garden is also able to transform his surroundings. Peter, an unhappy child, finds an Eden in a walled botanical garden (based on Kew), and is sustained by his experience when he has to return home. Viewers are encouraged to explore the wonders of Peter's garden for themselves, through pictures in which a profusion of ordinary and fantastic objects flourish naturally and matter-of-factly.

Holiday entertainment in the tale of The Snoops at Number 9 Keyhole Crescent, the world's nosiest family, whose victims mount a mass snoop in retaliation. The layout, perspective s and construction invite the viewer to be arch-snooper.

Delphine Durand's idiosyncratic artwork displays a cast of likeable human and animal grotesques captured in a spidery line, and Miriam Moss's "hand-written" text contributes an intimate note. There's an abundance of jokes ranging from the cheerfully disgusting to the wry.

What Can You See? makes a virtue out of the snooper's vice by turning it into a game designed to encourage object identification and sustained looking. When Tilly takes her telescope on a hot air balloon flight above a small town, each spread discloses a different scene as well as three views through the telescope. Meanwhile, the narrator sets young viewers "can you find?" tasks. Kazuko's pictures, constructed of paper collage in vibrant colour, are supercharged with small detail.

David Pelham's Say Cheese!, which comes in the form of a hefty wedge of Cheddar, encourages more peeping and a little manual dexterity. A hole in the cheese allows access to a world of mice. Grandma Mouse sends out invitations for a tea party, and the great French photographer,

M Souris, is there to capture the moment. The text, designed to set everyone smiling, whisks along in the verse, and the pop-ups, flaps and tags animate the action.

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