Sprout, written and illustrated by Craig Sinclair
Sprout is an adorable elf, dressed in brightly coloured garb and striding through his fairy tale home with an optimistic spring in his step. Sprout could come from the pages of many works of Twentieth Century children’s fiction. He is straight from Enid Blyton central casting, set the controls for the centre of the Magic Faraway Tree.
But there is something a little wrong about Sprout’s world. His enchanted wood features hanged men. The travelling circus is menaced by demonic spider grannies. Like many of the children that might read such a tale, our elven friend is also something of a selfish narcissist and those around him in fairy land seem to be as consumed by woes and prejudices as those in lands closer to home.
Children’s literature is often a place of escape, a refuge from the sometimes grim reality of home. But the pages of Sprout’s storybook begin to be insufficient to keep out the mundane world of material existence.
If Enid Blyton wrote social work reports they might be something like Sprout.
His visit to friendly rabbit Mrs Cuniculus is interrupted by the visit of the bailiffs. The residents of fairy land seem rather insular and nasty. The world of Sprout is revealed as one of death, decay and disappointment. Escapism loses out to the irresistible onslaught of a world of drink, neglect and abuse.
The art in Sprout also creates contrast between the two worlds. The world of Sprout is one of primary colours and simple, flat, clean lines. The depiction of modern Britain has depth and realism. It is a muddier world but as the book goes on the two worlds seem to merge.
This dystopian Enid Blyton world is reminiscent of The Flood that did Come by Patrick Wray, picturing as it does the sterile worldview of a country trying to return to a time that never was. The bright simplicities and nursery rhyme morality of Noddy infused with 1950’s conservatism are the model for this nightmare vision.
The language used, especially by our self-centred pixie friend, is creatively coarse with echoes of the mighty Viz Comic. The charming Mr and Mrs Toffetoes for example in response to Sprouts marital advice “well that was about as much use as a kick in the tits!”
The horror in Sprout comes not just from the bleeding of our rotten world into that of our elven hero but also that of the judgemental elf materialising in ours. Right up to the final bleak scenes when there is no fairyland, just a wood and a rope on a tree. If Enid Blyton wrote social work reports they might be something like Sprout.
Sprout is available from craigsinclair.co.uk