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Chris Capstick , Monika Filipina

Alexander the Great Dane

YEAR: 2017

COUNTRY: United Kingdom

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Title of the work

Alexander the Great Dane

Country of the First Edition

Country/countries of popularity

United Kingdom

Original Language

English

First Edition Date

2017

First Edition Details

Chris Capstick, Alexander the Great Dane, Bromborough: Fourth Wall Publishing, 2017, pp.31.

ISBN

978-1-910851-46-3

Genre

Picture books

Target Audience

Children (c. 3-8)

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, sonya.nevin@roehampton.ac.uk

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, s.deacy@roehampton.ac.uk 

Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, ehale@une.edu.au

Male portrait

Chris Capstick (Author)

Chris Capstick is a UK-based children's author and illustrator. He studied art, design, and photography at Leeds and Manchester. His works as an author include Claude the Magnificent (Fourth Wall, 2016) and Dr James McGee: And the Time Machine (Fourth Wall, 2017). His work as an illustrator includes The Boy Who Unplugged the Sea (Fourth Wall, 2016, au. Paul Smith).


Bio prepared by Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, sonya.nevin@roehampton.ac.uk


Female portrait

Monika Filipina (Illustrator)

Monika Filipina is a freelance children's illustrator now based in Cambridge in the UK. She took a BA in Illustration from the University of Wolverhampton and, in 2014, completed a MA in Children's Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Arts. 


Source:

Official website (accessed: March 13, 2019)


Bio prepared by Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, sonya.nevin@roehampton.ac.uk


Summary

This light-hearted story is set in an ancient Egypt ruled by giant cats. The giant cats unfairly favour the normal-sized cats, leaving dogs to do all the work. This injustice has persisted for generations, until "a young pup called Alexander" left his care-free youth behind him to enter a world of toil and decided to lead the dogs in throwing off the shackles of their oppressors. True to the genre of books for young children, Alexander asks dogs of various occupations for their views on how a revolution might be carried out, with each answering with suggestions linked to their modes of employment. Alexander attempts to implement their various ideas, but each fails. When the soldier dog suggests firing catapults at the giant cats, the giant cats simply start wearing giant hats. Not to be put-off, Alexander hits on a plan that draws on the skills of all the dogs. The dogs dig giant holes beneath the city. Alexander then invites the cats to a party. When the party turns to dancing, the giant cats fall through the floor into the giant holes beneath. "The dogs were free at last. 'Hurray for Alexander the Great Dane!' they all cheered." The giant cats remained underground, dancing, and their giant hats became the pyramids we all know and love today.

Analysis

This is a fun book made more fun by the inventive use of illustration to evoke a cat-run ancient Egypt. On the cover, Alexander's name is written as if on an ancient papyrus scroll which, in combination with the book's title, immediately communicates antiquity. The cover's interior is covered in playful imitation hieroglyphs with a cat and dog theme. Similar cartoon hieroglyphs appear throughout the work on walls, scrolls, and vases in the backgrounds of the main illustrations. The giant cats wear head-dresses akin to those of pharaohs, adding to the ancient milieu. There is also a delightful image of dogs playing ancient-style musical instruments at the party. All of these sorts of details will help to familiarise very young readers with some of the iconographic indicators of ancient Egypt.

Young readers may also be introduced in this work to the concepts of slavery, exploitation and labour disputes, albeit through the distant environment of the ancient past. The occupations referred to suit an ancient environment – cooking, tailoring, soldiering, labouring, and (perhaps somewhat euphemistically) massaging. While labour itself is not denigrated, the story emphasises the desirability of fairness in the division of labour and the importance of choice. The notion that one group could compel another group to service them is presented as unjust, undesirable, and unsustainable. These challengingly adult ideas are softened by their presentation in a bygone (ancient) and fantasy (animal-led) context. What is quite clear, however, is that the plot is based on the biblical story of Moses. The title, Alexander the Great Dane, appears to be born entirely from the beauty of the punning riff on the name of Alexander the Great and the dog breed, Great Dane. The title may encourage some to buy the book as it is both funny and communicates the ancient setting, but readers may be surprised if they expect to find anything even vaguely evoking the Macedonian conqueror beyond that title. In that sense, there is a sort of inter-changeability to ancient culture here, in which Alexander can both sell a book and be absent from it.

The violent horrors of revolution are minimised by insistence that the giant cats were happy enough dancing underground, without reference to them suffocating or suffering other ill-effects. That they are "still dancing" today both reinforces the idea that the giant cats have not been harmed by being shut underground and also captures something of the theology of ancient Egypt, in which the entombed have gone beyond mortal life without truly dying. The connection to the present day will help young readers to anchor Egypt through time, as both ancient and contemporary space, while the reinterpretation of what the pyramids are is more charmingly silly than really misleading. This continues the book's element of double-coding, in which adult and child readers will interpret material on different levels. Children may miss the Great/Great Dane pun, may not recognise the plot as a reflection on Moses or more recent slave-rebellions and labour disputes, and may not see the pyramid hats as a joke. The book can still be enjoyed without them recognising these more sophisticated elements, and they create an opportunity for adults to enjoy the book more than they might otherwise, and for adults to help children to a deeper understanding through explanation and discussion.


Further Reading

Moore, Kenneth, Royce, ed. Brill's Companion to the Reception of Alexander the Great, Leiden: Brill, 2018.

Beal, Jane, ed. Illuminating Moses: A History of Reception from Exodus to the Renaissance, Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Urbaincyzk, Theresa, Slave Revolts in Antiquity, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Wright, Melanie, Jane, Moses in America. The Cultural Uses of Biblical Narrative, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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Leaf pattern
Leaf pattern

Title of the work

Alexander the Great Dane

Country of the First Edition

Country/countries of popularity

United Kingdom

Original Language

English

First Edition Date

2017

First Edition Details

Chris Capstick, Alexander the Great Dane, Bromborough: Fourth Wall Publishing, 2017, pp.31.

ISBN

978-1-910851-46-3

Genre

Picture books

Target Audience

Children (c. 3-8)

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, sonya.nevin@roehampton.ac.uk

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, s.deacy@roehampton.ac.uk 

Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, ehale@une.edu.au

Male portrait

Chris Capstick (Author)

Chris Capstick is a UK-based children's author and illustrator. He studied art, design, and photography at Leeds and Manchester. His works as an author include Claude the Magnificent (Fourth Wall, 2016) and Dr James McGee: And the Time Machine (Fourth Wall, 2017). His work as an illustrator includes The Boy Who Unplugged the Sea (Fourth Wall, 2016, au. Paul Smith).


Bio prepared by Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, sonya.nevin@roehampton.ac.uk


Female portrait

Monika Filipina (Illustrator)

Monika Filipina is a freelance children's illustrator now based in Cambridge in the UK. She took a BA in Illustration from the University of Wolverhampton and, in 2014, completed a MA in Children's Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Arts. 


Source:

Official website (accessed: March 13, 2019)


Bio prepared by Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, sonya.nevin@roehampton.ac.uk


Summary

This light-hearted story is set in an ancient Egypt ruled by giant cats. The giant cats unfairly favour the normal-sized cats, leaving dogs to do all the work. This injustice has persisted for generations, until "a young pup called Alexander" left his care-free youth behind him to enter a world of toil and decided to lead the dogs in throwing off the shackles of their oppressors. True to the genre of books for young children, Alexander asks dogs of various occupations for their views on how a revolution might be carried out, with each answering with suggestions linked to their modes of employment. Alexander attempts to implement their various ideas, but each fails. When the soldier dog suggests firing catapults at the giant cats, the giant cats simply start wearing giant hats. Not to be put-off, Alexander hits on a plan that draws on the skills of all the dogs. The dogs dig giant holes beneath the city. Alexander then invites the cats to a party. When the party turns to dancing, the giant cats fall through the floor into the giant holes beneath. "The dogs were free at last. 'Hurray for Alexander the Great Dane!' they all cheered." The giant cats remained underground, dancing, and their giant hats became the pyramids we all know and love today.

Analysis

This is a fun book made more fun by the inventive use of illustration to evoke a cat-run ancient Egypt. On the cover, Alexander's name is written as if on an ancient papyrus scroll which, in combination with the book's title, immediately communicates antiquity. The cover's interior is covered in playful imitation hieroglyphs with a cat and dog theme. Similar cartoon hieroglyphs appear throughout the work on walls, scrolls, and vases in the backgrounds of the main illustrations. The giant cats wear head-dresses akin to those of pharaohs, adding to the ancient milieu. There is also a delightful image of dogs playing ancient-style musical instruments at the party. All of these sorts of details will help to familiarise very young readers with some of the iconographic indicators of ancient Egypt.

Young readers may also be introduced in this work to the concepts of slavery, exploitation and labour disputes, albeit through the distant environment of the ancient past. The occupations referred to suit an ancient environment – cooking, tailoring, soldiering, labouring, and (perhaps somewhat euphemistically) massaging. While labour itself is not denigrated, the story emphasises the desirability of fairness in the division of labour and the importance of choice. The notion that one group could compel another group to service them is presented as unjust, undesirable, and unsustainable. These challengingly adult ideas are softened by their presentation in a bygone (ancient) and fantasy (animal-led) context. What is quite clear, however, is that the plot is based on the biblical story of Moses. The title, Alexander the Great Dane, appears to be born entirely from the beauty of the punning riff on the name of Alexander the Great and the dog breed, Great Dane. The title may encourage some to buy the book as it is both funny and communicates the ancient setting, but readers may be surprised if they expect to find anything even vaguely evoking the Macedonian conqueror beyond that title. In that sense, there is a sort of inter-changeability to ancient culture here, in which Alexander can both sell a book and be absent from it.

The violent horrors of revolution are minimised by insistence that the giant cats were happy enough dancing underground, without reference to them suffocating or suffering other ill-effects. That they are "still dancing" today both reinforces the idea that the giant cats have not been harmed by being shut underground and also captures something of the theology of ancient Egypt, in which the entombed have gone beyond mortal life without truly dying. The connection to the present day will help young readers to anchor Egypt through time, as both ancient and contemporary space, while the reinterpretation of what the pyramids are is more charmingly silly than really misleading. This continues the book's element of double-coding, in which adult and child readers will interpret material on different levels. Children may miss the Great/Great Dane pun, may not recognise the plot as a reflection on Moses or more recent slave-rebellions and labour disputes, and may not see the pyramid hats as a joke. The book can still be enjoyed without them recognising these more sophisticated elements, and they create an opportunity for adults to enjoy the book more than they might otherwise, and for adults to help children to a deeper understanding through explanation and discussion.


Further Reading

Moore, Kenneth, Royce, ed. Brill's Companion to the Reception of Alexander the Great, Leiden: Brill, 2018.

Beal, Jane, ed. Illuminating Moses: A History of Reception from Exodus to the Renaissance, Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Urbaincyzk, Theresa, Slave Revolts in Antiquity, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Wright, Melanie, Jane, Moses in America. The Cultural Uses of Biblical Narrative, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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