The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh (yay author/illustrators!) is a heartwarming, offbeat tale about finding amazing stories in unlikely places, and learning not to underestimate the people in your life. It was one of a batch of children's books I got a few birthdays ago, because the people in my life KNOW my NEEDS.

On top of the fact that there are sparkly bits on the cover (good call, HarperCollins) I was drawn to The Frank show right away thanks to Mackintosh's bright, eclectic offbeat illustration style. His combination of raw pencil lines, warm watercolour accents and large, bold fields of colour just pulled me right in. I also loved the charming details included in some of the more elaborate spreads, like visual easter eggs for readers to find and enjoy. Finally, Mackintosh's playful use of type (he's from a graphic design background) is what sealed the deal.

I'm a sucker for attention to detail, so all the sneaky little elements were a great treat - an intricately patterned rug, a nod to Edgar Allen Poe, an exasperated biker in a city scene. I also appreciated the dog that appears frequently along side - "bonus doggies" are a little touch that I try sneak into my own work from time to time, so it delights me to see one in other books.

One thing that I really enjoyed about The Frank show was the almost neo cubist approach to the architecture and environments, coupled with the minimalist style of the characters' expressions. When I was young enough to be the right target market for these books (not a weirdo 20-something with a very large collection of them) I always gravitated toward books that had a really approachable style - I wanted to feel like I could make books too. Hyper realistic, complicated illustrations never grabbed me, so I guess that's why Mackintosh's wild, almost incomplete style charms me so.

I also really loved the use of found images, patterns and textures throughout the book - it really added to that tactile experience I got from the rough pencil and paint. Finally, Mackintosh ties it all together with bold, brash typesetting that is just clean enough to keep the whole thing from going over the top. (His beautiful swathes of white space in just the right places don't hurt, either.)

The illustrations in this book are manic and wild from start to finish, which is not often something that appeals to me much. (In fact, I even complain about super energetic and colourful books in my review of Sparky! from a while back.) But something about the mix of styles and elements in the book just pulls me in. The sneaky details add an extra layer of appeal for adults, something which is often missing in kid lit - they remind me of Richard Scarry's classics, with all these mad things in the background for you to discover.

If you're looking for other books with lots of fun details and a found-objects collage sort of feel, I highly recommend you check out Stay! by Alex Latimer and the Story Machine by Tom McLaughlin.