Oliver Jeffers’ creative definition of ownership

Oliver Jeffers, This Moose Belongs to Me

Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2012, 36p

 

I am fascinated with picture books and the way talented artists embrace the fundamental controversies in our lives. I also find great delight in children’s spontaneity in accepting unfamiliar situations and finding amusement in all absurdities.

As I have already said when writing about Lost and Found, Oliver Jeffers is an amazing talent, a multi-prize-winning picture book creator, painter, writer and former U2 collaborator. In an interview for The Guardian he explains his belief that picture books are for everybody who finds joy in art:

Since I began making picture books I have come to realise over time that I call them just that. Picture books. Not children’s books. The reason for this is twofold; firstly I don’t believe they are just for children. I have met countless adults that collect picture books for themselves, and they are growing in confidence about openly admitting this in a book-signing queue. It’s not for my daughter, or a friend’s nephew. It’s for me. Often these individuals are teachers, librarians, publishing employees, art college students / aspiring picture-book makers themselves. But increasingly, they are doctors, civil servants, bus drivers … just people who have discovered the joy of a story unfolding visually over a few dozen pages.

I refrain from calling them children’s books because that implies I write them specifically for children. I don’t. I write them for myself. And for everyone.

With This Moose Belongs to Me Jeffers proves again that children’s imagination has no limits not even when exploring relations or trying to understand the abstract concept of ownership.

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We meet Wilfried, a little boy who owned a moose (or he thought he owned). He named the moose Marcel. Trying to educate the animal to become a good pet, Wilfried listed some essential rules – not to make too much noise while he plays his record collection, go whichever way Wilfried wants to go but not too far away from home, provide shelter when raining and serve him drinks.

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But soon the boy discovers that other people owned the moose calling him by different names – Rodrigo, Dominic… He feels embarrassed, enraged and cannot accept the rejection.  But when trapped in the dark forest and saved by the moose, Wilfried understands he needs to reevaluate his relation with Marcel.

With that in mind, he and the moose reached a compromise. The moose would agree to all of Wilfried’s rules… whenever it suited him.

Jeffers adapted painter Alexander Dzigurski’s landscapes and used them as stage for his charming characters who finally manage to develop a consensual, independence-based partnership.

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