Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Book Review: The Greatest Gatsby, by Tohby Riddle

What do you get when an illustrator borrows his mum's old type-writer, pulls out a box of stamps and tries his hand at explaining the basics of English grammar?

The Greatest Gatsby: A Visual Book of Grammar, by Tohby Riddle.

The book ostensibly explains grammar by illustrating the concepts, but it is really more of a celebration than an explanation.  I'm something of a grammar nut myself, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how Riddle found visually striking ways to illustrate the way language works.... but I'm not entirely sure anyone who was new to grammatical terms would gain a firm understanding of the subject from this book.  I'm also not entirely sure that matters.

This book is a feast for the eyes - especially for anyone with a fondness for old stationary.  Much of the text was created using an old ribbon type-writer, but some of it was created with stamps and letters taken from an old press.

Stamps - proper rubber stamps of things like trains, bicycles and pandas - feature heavily in the design, as do pages from ledgers, index cards and graph paper.  Many of the other illustrations are collages of images only a genius or a madman would construct.  And, almost as icing on the cake, there are also drawings and sketches.

This book is one of those rare birds that defy easy categorisation.  It is an illustrated book that looks a lot like a children's book, but probably has more to offer an older audience.  It's a book about language which is more striking for the images than the words.  

It's going to be tucked away in the English language section (call number 425 RID), but it is a must-read for anyone interested in illustration and design.  Anyone who might be looking in the Curriculum Collection for interesting ways to explain grammar would also benefit from seeking out this book in the Main Collection.

If you like words and looking at the way language works, read this book.  If you like art and design, read this book.  If you like stink bugs and airships, read this book. 

If this book was written entirely in Ancient Greek, it would still be worth reading.

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