Cheese Belongs to You is a strange and surreal picture book by Alexis Deacon, the award winning author of Beegu, with bonkers illustrations by Viviane Schwarz. We picked it because in our house we all have quite strong feelings about cheese, one way or another. My husband hates it. The children and I fight over it. We wondered if the book would give us ammunition over ownership rights.
I love well designed picture books, and even the end pages of this book are printed to look like the holes in Swiss cheese, which pleased me enormously.
The story is very simple, just a few short lines per page that illustrate the cheese ownership rules in the world of rats. It is very much along the lines of ‘ownership is 9/10ths of the law’. Each page shows the cheese in question being won or fought over by rats further and further up the food chain, as it were.
There is a wonderful twist, which I won’t spoil for you.
The pictures are quite disturbing in their way. If you liked Beegu, this is a very different proposition indeed. The rats are not beautiful, or cute. They’re incredibly rattish and if you have a phobia about such things this probably isn’t the book for you. The fact that they’re white and pink, so troublingly albino looking adds to the weirdness, as does the fact that the rats are all hand drawn but the cheese is a photograph. The juxtaposition of the images heightens the surreal, slightly Monty Pythonesque nature of the book.
This is not a negative for me, by the way. I think picture books, like all books, can run the gamut from cute and acceptable to strange and disturbing and hit every point in between. I embrace the variety and it is certainly nice to have your preconceptions of what a book should be challenged every now and again.
If I were in charge of schooling, which I am not, much to the relief of everyone, I would use this book for a fantastic, alternative resource on the inevitable lessons on how to teach instructional writing. You could have heaps of fun with it.
It’s funny and clever and sharp, and we enjoyed sharing it very much. Suitable for boys and girls aged 3 and up, although as it relies on understanding of rules and hierarchies etc it might be enjoyed more by slightly older children for maximum effect.