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The Swish Family Robinson

Stuart Bailie | 11:30 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgFifteen years ago, I fell in love with a book. I was browsing through a mom and pop store in Toronto when I spied ‘A Day With Wilbur Robinson’ by William Joyce. The illustrations were classy and the humour was perfect. I made an impulse buy and then returned the next day to empty the shop’s stock for friends.

Essentially, it’s about a boy falling in with an eccentric southern family. There are inventors and astronauts, jazz-loving frogs and precocious belles. Drawn in the coolest art deco style, it’s like The Great Gatsby doing the wild thing with Dr Doolittle.

The book has served my three kids well and led us on to other William Joyce works such as Dinosaur Bob and George Shrinks. The writer, who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, feels like a family friend. Occasionally I google his name to find other books, and more recently, to uncover his film connections with Disney.

wilbur170.jpgLast night, the Bailie tribe went to the cinema for ‘Meet The Robinsons’. We were rather worried that our favourite book would be turned into some dumb product. And sure enough, the visuals have been simplified and the characters all have that bug-faced Disney look that passes for cute. And what’s yer man Jamie Cullum doing as Frankie the frog?

But William Joyce’s vision has somehow survived, so we left smiling and reassured. The book still rules, of course, but the movie will do.


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