Friday, August 28, 2009

PROPAGANDA Reviews: Andi Watson's wonderful Glister in The House Hunt

Glister: The House Hunt

by Andi Watson

Walker Books

The second Glister book from Walker Books, released earlier this month along with Glister: The Haunted Teapot (review). To be honest everything I said in that review could easily fit here.

Glister is such a delightful work, full of marvellous moments and sumptuous artwork that I could almost wish Andi just spent his time making these stories from now on. I say almost since I’m acutely aware that Andi’s more adult orientated work (for example: the wonderful Breakfast Afternoon, Slow News Day or Little Star) is just as good and I’d love to see more of that sort of book from him as well. Maybe I can just hope for a few Glister books a year and then one adult work as well?

(Strange things happen around Glister Butterworth. Andi opens The House Hunt just the way he did The Haunted Teapot, with a lovely little introduction to Glister and her world. From Glister: The House Hunt, (c) Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

Anyway, Glister: The House Hunt features all of the stuff that made Glister: The Haunted Teapot so wonderfully fun; Glister is still an energetic, effervescent sparkle of quaint Englishness, a perfect heroine for the young girls Andi’s writing this for (and one of Molly’s favourite characters she’s met in comics so far). But with the Haunted House Andi opens his work up a little more. Instead of a deliberately self contained story, we get to explore a little more of Glister’s world here.

Glister’s village is taking part in the annual Village-In-Bloom contest, complete with pompous and oh so marvellously English chairman; Mr Leonard Swarkstone, the Lord Lieutenant of Whixleyshire and head of the Gravehunger Moss Bonny village taskforce. He’s determined to have everything in the village looking “just-so” and he’s none to keen on Chilblain Hall, especially after Glister gives him the guided tour, taking in the Troll bridge (complete with real Troll), underground railways, the robing room with her dad’s minibeast collection and much more.

(Chilblain Hall. Weird and wonderful, but never going to win awards from the bonny village taskforce. From Glister: The House Hunt, (c) Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

Chilblain Hall, you see, is no ordinary home, it’s a magical, wonderful place, constantly changing and never settling on any one layout or look. You’re equally likely to find your bedroom transformed into a cinema overnight or discover that the Masonic Lodge has taken up residence in the wine cellar. But this magical beauty holds no appeal for Mr Swarkstone, he’s a man of order and straight lines so the raggle taggle architecture and delightfully mismatched rooms of Chilblain Hall don’t appeal in the slightest. Which is when he makes his serious mistake. He tells Glister what he really thinks. And he does it within earshot of the hall:

“It’s a health and safety disaster waiting to happen, a veritable deathtrap in the heart of our rural idyll. On top of which it’s an eyesore, a Frankenstein’s monster of follies and anachronisms hastily stitched together in the style of… of…. ”
“Neo-gothic?” (suggests Glister)
“In the style of a dog’s breakfast”
“The best thing that could possibly happen is for this ramshackle lean-to to be shipped brick by brick across the Atlantic and pieced back together in some Texas rancher’s theme park.”

(Chilblain Hall, in all it’s splendour, given genuine character and life throughout The House Hunt. It isn’t just a house, it’s written brilliantly to be as real as the people in Glister’s life. And just like them, it can be hurt by the unkind words of others. From Glister: The House Hunt, (c) Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

Chilblain Hall takes it all to heart. Glister does her best to assuage it’s wounded pride, talking up it’s handsome tower, explaining that rustic is in this season and that there’s no need to be so sad. But her words fail to cheer the poor old hall up for very long and one day it simply ups and leaves the way only marvellously magical residences can.

The rest of the book deals with Glister’s heartfelt attempts to bring her home (and her friend) back to where it rightfully belongs. Along the way we get to see Glister and her dad realise that finding temporary accomodation may be harder than it seemed; the Troll’s taken up residence in the wishing well, Long Meg the witch was in the shed for the summer and there’s a battle swine in the Goat house. Eventually the find respite in a swiftly grown tree house, but it’s not Chilblain Hall, not Glister’s friend and she’s missing it terribly:

(Watson’s art, so light and fun throughout, still manages to capture a moment of sadness perfectly. From Glister: The House Hunt, (c) Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

Watson fills The House Hunt with fantastical and funny characters and situations around the central story of the wonderful Chilblain Hall and it’s self-imposed holiday / exile from Glister’s life. But there’s also time to darken the story a little, adding in a real sense of loss and friendship as Glister realises that she’s missing her friend. And the artwork. Wow. Andi Watson pulls off something that looks uniquely English and modern and lovely and quaint and just plain great. And I trust you can all see that from the examples here. Beautiful work full of moments of artistic brilliance.

Glister is available wherever you can get good quality children’s books. Alas, it looks unlikely that it will be found in comic shops anytime soon as Walker Books don’t really deal with them. Shame. I’d hate to think the Andi Watson fans out there (and I know that there are many of us) would miss out on this.

The next Glister book: The Faerie Host is out in January. It’s the last of the stories previously published by Image and it takes the book to new heights. Glister is a rare thing, a comic designed for children that will amaze and entertain everyone who picks it up, young or old, boy or girl. Definitely one to pick up.

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