It’s always a real challenge to convert longer novels into picture books, and I’ve seen it done with mixed success. It’s even more challenging with a classic children’s book, with which we are so familiar. But today’s Book Monster advent choice shows an example of this done to perfection. It is The Hundred and One Dalmations originally written by Dodie Smith, adapted by Peter Bently, illustrated by Steven Lenton and published by Egmont.
The Hundred and One Dalmations, tells the story (one many of us are familiar with) of a litter of 15 puppies born. However, the evil Cruella de Vill has her sights set on the pups for a spotty fur coat! She kidnaps the dogs, and the results is a race against time by their parents and helpful local hounds, to rescue not only their own litter of pups, but just a few extras too!
As I mentioned before, adapting a classic story is tricky, and to make it into a picture book trickier still. Cutting down all the words in a novel to just a few words and mainly illustrations is a real challenge. But who better to take on this challenge than wordsmith Peter Bentley and illustrator extraordinaire Steven Lenton. The adaptation has been perfectly done. It makes for a slightly longer picture book than standard, which is actually perfect as it makes it a great book to read to slightly older children as well as young ones. It’s fast past, contains all the key plot points of the original book so it doesn’t loose any of its authenticity.
Steven Lenton has really put his own original slant on the illustrations. The puppies are just adorable, slightly stylised in this, but bursting with character. The images are detailed and atmospheric, retaining the vintage feel to match in with the time of Dodie Smith’s classic, but still colourful and eye catching enough to appeal to children. And on the end pages we have, of course, 101 dalmation puppies, which must have taken an age to illustrate and a lot of planning to fit in. And yes I did count them all, and yes it took a while!!! It’s really all very adorable.
The One Hundred and One Dalmations has been superbly executed by Peter and Steven, making it the ideal introduction to a classic book for younger children. It retains the aspects we all so love about this classic story, whilst still feeling new and fresh. An absolutely wonderful gift for children!