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You know sometimes there are books you read as children that stay with you well into adulthood? Matilda is one of the most amazing books I have ever read, and even now when I need a comfort read, nothing makes me feel happier and cosier than when I'm snuggled up with that. But for picture books, I vividly remember sitting with my brother, and our old copy of 'Cops and Robbers' by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, our little cassette player that has the audio book on it and listening and laughing along to it. I can still hear the narrator say "Ho ho for the robbers, the cops and the robbers, ho ho!" even now, so when I saw the book in WH Smith the other day, I just had to get a copy for Harry and introduce him to the Cops and Robbers of London Town for myself!
Cops and Robbers tells us the story of 2 very different sets of people who live in London town. Firstly, we meet the cops, who include the rather fantastic Officer Pugh, who is the best police officer of them all, and is able to fend off all kinds of burglars by himself! Then, there
are the awful robbers, all pretty awful in their own way, but especially Grandma Swagg, tut tut! The police officers are of course dressed smartly in their uniforms, and the burglars in their stripey outfits with bandanas over their eyes, but all is about to kick off one Christmas Eve nightwith the officers and burglars... who will come out as the victors?!
Firstly, I've got to say that once you read this book, you'll fall in love with it. Janet and Allan Ahlberg are an amazing writing duo, and it's no surprise that the books they wrotes decades ago (this book is an amazing 34 years old) are still as successful, still in print and still among some of the most popular children's books on library lists. Allan Ahlberg was responsible for the words in their books, with his wife Janet illustrating them, and while the words are fantastic, for me it is the illustrations in this book which really bring it to life and make it so readable. The illustrations are so bright and colourful, some taking up full pages, others fitting in around the text and it works perfectly, they complement the words exactly, and children love to look at them. The detail in these images, particularly the full page ones are outstanding.
The fun thing about this text is that it is rhyming throughout the book, and has a great rhythm as you read it aloud. Due to the way it's written, it is somehow so easy to memorise and you'll find yourself reeling off passages of the book without really needing to put much effort into remembering it. Everything from the words to the characters are perfectly chosen to fit into the rhyme and rhythm scheme of the writing, and it takes a talent to make this all work together to create not only the rhyme and rhythm throughout the whole book, but to make it work as a story too. Harry loved that the burglars were being naughty near Christmas, stealing the children's toys and then getting their comeuppance, and its a good moralistic story for children, as well as delivering a few laugh courtesy of Officer Pugh in his underpants!
Personally, I feel this book works best as one to be read aloud to children rather than them reading to you, as they may not pick up on the rhythm and consequently it may not flow as it is supposed to. Harry loves listening to the rhyme, something he picked up straight away, and as an adult you can have plenty of fun with the words and rhythm, bouncing your voice around as you read. This is an absolutely delightful book that will be enjoyed by children of all ages due to the lovely rhyming story and beautiful illustrations. I can see why it is still being printed 34 years after it was written, because it's a timeless classic that can be enjoyed over and over again, with the bonus of children being able to join once they've learnt some of the rhyming lines, and of course the fab line "Ho ho for the robbers, the cops and the robbers, ho ho!". Highly recommended by Harry and I, we love it and I know we'll enjoy it for years to come.
ISBN: 978-0140565843. This edition published by Puffin on 30 September 1999, but was originally published in 1978. Pages: 32. RRP: £6.99.