Hailed as a classic, Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg draws you into a playful storybook world you’ll want to revisit time and again
Husband-and-wife team the Ahlbergs together created some of the most cherished picture books of the 20th Century. Their canon of well-loved reads includes the likes of Burglar Bill, Peepo!, The Jolly Postman and this rhyming delight, Each Peach Pear Plum. Published in 1978, the book earned Janet Ahlberg the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal for illustration and has been a bookshelf favourite ever since.
Inviting children to play a game of ‘I spy’, spotting characters from the realms of fairytale and folklore, there is Tom Thumb nestling in the boughs of a peach tree, Cinderella flailing a feather duster, and the three bears peering in through a window. And who can resist such a game?
The swirling vines on the jacket give a nod to William Morris; inside, a subdued palette of colours and gentle illustrations conjure up a comforting, bucolic idyll. And, as in the Ahlbergs’ other books, the attention to detail here is a joy. Take Mother Hubbard’s cottage – a sprig of heather pinned up by the door, a copper kettle nestling on the fire place, washing draped over a wooden clothes horse.
It’s a picture of cosy, country life. You’ll wish you could go round for a cuppa, or to sample some of that delicious strawberry jam Tom Thumb is tucking into in the cupboard.
And there’s a clever narrative unfolding in the background, as young readers will be quick to note. Out hunting with Daddy and Mummy Bear, Baby Bear trips and accidentally fires his gun with calamitous results. We’re kept us in suspense for a good few pages before we find out what happens (never fear, it all ends happily!).
Richly layered, this is a book you’ll enjoy pondering over together time and again, spotting something new on every outing.
FUN FACT Allan Ahlberg’s first book for adults, The Bucket, is out this October and chronicles his childhood in the Black Country. Illustrations are by his daughter Jessica.