Over the years I’ve placed many things on a pedestal – footballers, musicians, artists and authors. Norman Whiteside, for anyone with a recollection of football in the early eighties, was the first – his posters adorned my bedroom walls, and everything he did was majestic, a colossus in the midfield of an otherwise mediocre team.
While Norman always had a blu-tacked space in my room – he’d still be up there if I had my way – others soon joined him. Almost every heavy metal band of note was pinned up at some point, poodle hair and all. Then, as I moved through those deeply serious teenage years, black and whites of Dylan appeared, as well as whatever French impressionist was in the bargain bucket in Athena (whatever happened to Athena!). Later, it was prints of Hemingway front covers and probably a Sartre too, just to show how damn clever I was.
But in my years of fawning fandom, I’ve never come close to idolising a publisher. That is, until Flying Eye Books came on the scene. Until recently, I wasn’t aware of their output – I had read their books but hadn’t registered who published them. Now, after reading The Wolves of Currumpaw and The Journey, amongst others, I scan the shelves for their winking bird logo, just as I would once skim the spines looking for a particular author or title.
Their run of exceptional books continues with Archie Snufflekins – or Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius, to give its full title. Kate Harnett’s heart-warming story of a community brought together by Archie Snufflekins the cat, is beautifully done. Archie Snufflekins prowls from house to house, he is Archie in one and Valentine in the next and only settles when he finds the lonely old lady who lives on her own, bringing the rest of the street out to look for him and, in doing so, bringing them together.
It gets right to the nub of modern urban life – the wonderful diversity, coupled with the isolation and awkwardness that means we may just about know the names of the people next door but, beyond that, it’s a smile and a nod at best.
The story is delightful and wise, the illustrations bold and idiosyncratic. What tops it all, is the Flying Eye magic – the sheer quality of the paper, the way each page makes you feel privileged, as if you are touching the original drawings. Even the size of the book is perfect, just perfect.
There’s a new hero on my pedestal, a new poster on my wall. Budge over Norman, make way for Flying Eye Books.