Friday, 5 September 2014


Book Review


Author   Alexis Deacon
Publisher Red Fox 2004 (originally published in 2003 by Hutchinson)
ISBN 978-0-099-41744-6
Rating    *****

Beegu is a story about a young alien who crash lands to earth. She attempts to communicate but finds it difficult to make herself understood. At the same time, she finds it difficult to make sense of the surroundings in which she finds herself.

It is a heartwarming story which is simply but beautifully told through the use of very few words. The  book's issues of loneliness, rejection and isolation are effectively portrayed through the delightful images, evoking a range of emotions. In the primary classroom it will facilitate discussion on all these issues at a number of levels for different age groups; from the new pupil arriving at school and helping him/her understand routines and make friends to more complex subject matter such as comparing the themes with those in John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

The written text should easily be decodable by the majority of children in year 2/3. Therefore, it would be a suitable choice for the class library. However, so much more could be gained from this text if it were to be used with the class as a whole as a shared read or  with smaller groups as a guided read. With support from the teacher the children could identify the story structure and use it as a model for their own writing. It makes effective use of ellipsis.

The main feature of this picture book though is the images. It is a multimodal text. One where the written text simply does not tell the whole story. Like other mutlimodal texts such as Pat Hutchins' Rosie's Walk  and Eileen Browne's Handa's Surprise it is only when the images and the written text are read together that the full story emerges. The tonal quality of the images really evoke a deep sense of empathy for Beegu. She stands out, literally, in a dull and grey world.

It comes as no surprise that The Sunday Times review of Beegu states, ‘Alexis Deacon may well be Burningham’s heir apparent . . . Deacon’s poignant and understated text is brilliantly served by his illustrations, which carry distant rreminders of some of the best illustrators of the last 100 years and yet still remain uniquely his own.’ 

Beegu is Deacon's second book and was short listed for the Kate Greenaway Award in 2003. In the same year the New York Times named Beegu as one of its 10 Best Illustrated Books and in 2008 Deacon was named as one of Booktrust's 10 Best New Illustrators.