'You cannot hide from the truth, says Jane.'
Have you ever read the children's learn-to-read series of books Peter and Jane? I have sometimes found the text of such books oddly unsettling. Of course, they are completely laudable, important tools to kickstart what will hopefully be a life-time of reading. But it is the unnatural, formal, and repetitive turns of phrase - that although are obviously engineered to help children read - make them, well, a little strange.
It is this strangeness that artist Otto has exploited to full effect in his new series of concertina books in which the Peter and Jane characters (with a note of thanks to the good people of Ladybird Books) are thrown into a new and sinister 'Ottoverse'.
Jane and Peter find themselves in borgesian labyrinths, exploring the innards of a wooden horse, a narrow boat and a folding bike. With the cheerful bright colours of regular children's book fare replaced with sombre hues of black, grey and red, and backgrounds of gnarled leafless trees, grey tower blocks, and ominous crashing waves, we are left with a bleak impression of the supposedly fun activities Jane and Peter indulge in.
Each book concludes with a subversive and existential clanger from Jane (see quote at the top of the review). Perhaps uncovered from the lost draft of a children's book writer exasperated with presenting a positive and simplistic view of humanity?
Otto's Peter and Jane series of books are hand screen printed, in a limited edition of 45 and cost £30 each. They are available in the Bookartbookshop now.