A highly illustrated children’s storybook, Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High!, written and illustrated by John Fardell and published by Andersen Press is aimed at pre- and early primary school children.
Jeremiah Jellyfish drifts in the oceans with his extended family getting bored and dreaming of adventure. When he finally decides to leave the jellyfish bloom, he is able to avoid the danger of the jellyfishermen before being washed up on a beach where he meets a business executive. They decide to swap places and as the businessman puts on scuba gear to join the bloom, Jeremiah dons a fedora and takes the business man’s place in running the world’s largest rocket plane company.
A jellyfish in a hat running a rocket plane company? As this is a children’s book there is no need for adult logic to come into play, only for the story to spark a child’s imagination and this one does. John Fardell takes his title character on what is, initially at least, a journey that children can readily understand, leaving the safety of his family, surviving the mild peril of the fishermen, and then finding the relaxing businessman. He then takes a big leap into the science-fiction world of a rocket plane company and the fantasy of Jeremiah becoming both a businessman and a rocket plane pilot. As big a leap as that appears to be when described here in words, it is the lovely artwork of imaginative planes, rockets and buildings that make the book a delight to look at. Jeremiah’s boredom in the bloom is shown in the muted colours and relatively small size and repetitive nature of the illustrations at the beginning of the book before the story opens out both plot-wise and image-wise with the much larger, brighter and detailed illustrations of the bigger world that Jeremiah becomes a part of.
John Fardell has worked as a comic strip artist for the mature humour comic Viz, which does seem like an unlikely background for a children’s book illustrator, yet this book shows the comic strip and illustrative influences that have given him inspiration. While a child might think of “jellyfishermen” using fishing rods or nets, here they have the look of slightly mad scientists using a Heath Robinson-like contraption that is halfway between a mechanical digger’s scoop and a dinosaur’s jaws. His air and space craft have a logic to their designs which make them both interesting for children having the book read to them and believable for the adults doing the reading. Indeed the rocket ship section of the book echoes Eagle’s Dan Dare strip with jets and rockets flying around the multi-level city in a striking double page splash illustration. In the 1950s Eagle’s sibling comic Swift, which was aimed at younger readers, had a little known junior Dan Dare strip called Sammy In Space illustrated by Bruce Cornwell, the technical artist on the main Dan Dare strip, and set in the same world and locations as Dare was. It is to Fardell’s credit that his flying vehicles look like they could have come straight out of one of the Sammy In Space adventures.
The choice of children’s story books is normally in the hands of the adult readers rather than the child listener. Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High! and its science fiction world provides an unusual and delightful twist to the norm that should appeal to both.
John Fardell will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Thursday 15 August at 3:30pm in a children’s show-and-tell talk entitled Boy-Eating Monsters and Diabolical Baddies which is suitable for ages 5 and up, and as part of the Stripped BookFest on Thursday 22 August at 6:00pm in a talk entitled Tintin, Dan Dare and Heath Robinson which is suitable for ages 8 and up. Tickets for these events are available from the Edinburgh International Book Festival website.
There are more details of John Fardell’s work on the Books From Scotland website.
There are more details of Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High! on the Andersen Press website.
This review was first posted on the Stripped Book Fest blog and is re-posted here with full permission.