Michael Foreman, Fortunately Unfortunately

Andersen, 2011, ISBN 978-1849392242

Another exuberant picture book from the multi-talented Michael Foreman.

Endearing protagonist Milo sets off to Granny’s to return her umbrella. He is swiftly embroiled in fantastic adventures, first falling from a cliff into the cavernous belly of a whale, there encountering a pirate ship, propelled by cannon shot into a lost world of dinosaurs, borne aloft in the nick of time by a spaceship, only to be hijacked by aliens. Finally he reaches Granny’s house, but even here there are twists to the tale, the last intriguingly unresolved.

Foreman’s text is spare and patterned. Sentences are short and start alternately ‘Fortunately’ and ‘Unfortunately’. The detail is all in the pictures. Foreman’s trademark colour washes and rich hues are here (the double-page spread of the whale’s insides is particularly impressive), but his use of white space is equally striking (Milo’s fall depicted on a page with just seven words, a small and expressive Milo, and a wavy line with tufts of grass at the top indicating the cliff). Visual stereotypes are subtly subverted: the pirate captain has not just one hook but two; Granny conforms to every picture book cliché - until you notice her roller-skates.

This will be a popular book in the classroom and library. Younger children will enjoy hearing it read aloud. New and more experienced readers will enjoy reading it for themselves. All will pore over the pictures. The familiar ‘fortunately … unfortunately …’ motif could be used effectively to encourage their own story-telling, pictures and writing.