________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 9 . . . . January 7, 2000

cover On Tumbledown Hill.

Tim Wynne-Jones. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic.
Red Deer, AB: Red Deer College Press, 1998.
32 pp., cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 0-88995-1861-1.

Subject Headings:
Monsters-Juvenile fiction.
Artists-Juvenile fiction.
Painting-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Val Nielsen.

*** 1/2 /4

image It is hard to find a children's author who can match Tim-Wynne Jones for originality, unpredictability and versatility. From his well-loved "Zoom" series to his Governor General's award winning young adult books, Some of the Kinder Planets (Short stories,1993) and The Maestro (1995), Wynne-Jones never fails to delight and challenge his young readers. On Tumbledown Hill is: "A story in twenty-six sentences - no more And every sentence is one word shorter than the sentence before."

A determined painter and his pet rabbit, Bun, climb up Tumbledown Hill to nibble and scribble, but they are distracted by a mob of unruly monsters whose energetic pranks include drawing on the sidewalk, starting a fight; splashing in the fountain and riding four-to-a-bike. The harried painter exclaims, "They are knocking about with such devil-may care, I doubt they would notice if I was not there." He resolves, however, to stick around and keep working till those monsters are painted right out of his head. Sure enough, by the end of the book, the rambunctious rascals (who turn out to be a gang of kids having fun) are all gone... or so it seems.

Noted cartoonist Dusan Petricic, is a well-respected children's illustrator whose imaginative art work has appeared in Bone Button Borsch and Let's Play. In On Tumbledown Hill, the artist has cleverly arranged the rhyming text of Wynne-Jones' twenty-six sentence story to diminish page by page as his bright, bouncy, water-colour illustrations take over the story.

As is always the case with Tim Wynne-Jones' picture books, the author's sense of fun and whimsy both tickles the reader's funny bone and gives the imagination a stretch. An older reader might make some interpretive leaps and see the story as a commentary on the necessity of overcoming distractions that interrupt the creative process, but most fun will be had by reading the rhyming story out loud and enjoying Du an Petrolia's wacky characters and their zany antics as they gradually overcome the large print of the text. Children will enjoy counting the words of the twenty-six sentences that make up On Tumble Down Hill and noting the clever way the author works out his story starting with twenty-six words on page one and ending with one word on page twenty-six. (In a note at the end of the book, Wynne-Jones informs the reader that contractions count as two words and hyphenated words as one.) Older students who read and write children's books as part of their language arts program may well be inspired to use On Tumbledown Hill as a model for their original creations.


Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian who is still reading and enjoying children's books in Winnipeg, MB.

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ISSN 1201-9364