Polly the Dreamer is a children’s book which exploits all the conventions of the children’s story, namely, imagination, a rather loose fancy, the dream world and simple, yet musical language. The narrative is built on the “what if…” narrative style, thus depicting what would happen if the fantasies of Polly, the narrator and at the same time creator of the subsequent rhymed compositions, came to become reality.
The concept which serves as the starting point, If I had a….hmmm?, is quite amusing and entertaining as it leads the reader to a journey through all the possible chambers of Polly’s creative process. Various scenarios are imagined, some rather fantastical, others more grounded and realistic, providing a solid balance of fantasy and realism. This is an excellent characteristic for a book meant for children, as it imbues the unreal with the real, in the sort of fashion which characterizes a child’s mind: that is, looking at the world with eyes sparkling of fairy powder, finding the secret correspondences and the magic where an adult would simply see perhaps just a table, or a chair, or any other inanimate object. The language follows the tradition of the children’s story as well, and it is abundant of onomatopoeias and crackling words, although I must say at times I found it inappropriate and the rhymes very cacophonous.
Another thing that, in my opinion, needed to be improved, are the layout and the illustrations. The rectangular-shaped, black-framed layout is a bit awkward for a children’s book, and the same applies to the images which seem copied and pasted directly from Google, and which all have a rather odd and unpleasant quality. It would have been excellent if the illustrations had been drawings made by an artist or if the layout had been more refined, as the aesthetic and the quality of the illustrations are fundamental aspects of a children’s book. Indeed, the graphic aspect of every children's book is way more than a simple shell, since it is meant to enrich the reading experience and make it unique, original and emotional. Hence, the choice of images could have been significantly better, the images in themselves are quite mismatched with respect to the text and the sound of the words, while the colours and the subjects too are a bit bland, if not completely unattractive. There is a lack of cohesive design as regards to the pictures chosen, which all present different designs and sizes and are placed in sometimes clumsy positions in their respective pages. Moreover, there is a section that breaks the narrative illusion with the addition of a "real" character, presumably from the author's life, which is totally unnecessary and uncalled for, breaking the harmony of the narration.
Nevertheless, it is laudable how the author at the end turns the book into a workbook, leaving a fun space for the reader’s creativity and passes the pen in their hands, encouraging them to create their own story, their own book. I believe this is an aspect that more children’s book should implement but it is rarely found, therefore I was pleasantly surprised to encounter this twist here.
Overall, this is a fun book to have, especially recommended to the younger children who are eager to let their creativity loose and mess with the framework of reality itself. It is a pity that the design is so poor, however it must be acknowledged, for the sake of fairness, that this may takes second place if one considers that a child reader would ideally be more amused by the words and the rhymes than concerned with evaluating the aesthetic quality of a written work.
I am currently in the senior sophister and final year of my BA in English Literature and Classics, writing a thesis on John Keat's poetry and 19th-century English literature. I majored in English and I am specialized in reviewing children's books, YA, classics, and poetry but I am open to anything!