Harold Phillip – to give him his full title – Snipperpot is about to turn seven years old and he isn’t looking forward to his birthday. Harold’s parents are extremely unhappy – they never laugh together or hug each other or smile. And they don’t believe in birthday parties. But this year, they notice how sad Harold is and decide to organise a birthday party. Or, as it turns out, a disaster!
Alemagna’s illustration style is not only eye-catching and visually stimulating, it’s also extremely unusual with a quirky colour palette being used to accentuate the strangeness of the birthday party and its guests. The simplicity of that style lovingly conceals intricate details that present themselves after multiple reads.
The text is a little clunky at times – this is perhaps a translation issue – but nothing can distract from the magical and interactive qualities of her mixed media artwork, which begs to be stared at and pored over. Regardless of any lack of fluency in language, the inherent warmth and humour that permeate the simple story is never lost. Beyond the disastrously fantastic party is a much more serious and rewarding examination of family dynamics and the importance of communication and empathy. Anyone who has ever felt even a little bit lonely or left out will identify with Harold and utterly rejoice in his disaster!