This work follows a baby through the day. A series of holes peeping through to the next page leads the young child on to the next stage of the day, giving a hint of what is to come.
Janet and Allan Ahlberg were one of Britain’s most successful artist/author teams. From 1975 until shortly before Janet’s death in 1994, they created many acclaimed picture books.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
What puts Peepo into the "great book" category, for me, however, is the deeper answer it seems to pose to the question "what does he see?". For the illustrations hint at a story far deeper and darker than the words suggest, and seemingly targetted at adults, not children. It's easy to ignore these hints at first, but as they accumulate Peepo begins to feel more like an glimpse into an Eddic realm than a toddler one.
I use this book as an intelligence test on my friends, since about 90% of them cannot detect this hidden story and miss the hints. It is also an interesting small group exercise, since a team of 4 or 5 working together can usually eventually work out there is something much more to the pictures than initially meets the eye.
I think Peepo is a powerful illustration of the argument that we refuse to see what won't match our preconceptions, since there are things in the Peepo illustrations I have never ever seen in another book aimed at small children, yet these just don't register the first few times you look at the book. Most people don't (and perhaps can't) answer "what does he see" correctly.
Peepo's hidden message is all the more powerful for its poignant subtlety. Lots of authors have tried to say what Peepo does, but none has ever succeeded so brilliantly, in my estimation. And those who succeed in decoding Peepo may find themselves confronting bigger questions, such as why is that message so hard for us to receive and what drove the creators to bury their treasure so deep, and with such incredible art?
I have never read another small children's book that has haunted me like Peepo. Once decoded, it leaves an aftertaste more reminiscent of e.e. cummings than more typical toddler fare. And "solving" it only multiplies the mysteries. Yet mysteries aside, it is a wonderful book for small children. I have had great fun reading it to the 2- and 3-year- olds in my life. Its hints of a darker world-drama beyond the crib never once overshadow the brilliant beauty and innocence of this book, at least for the young children it will be read to.
I strongly recommend this book for small children, particularly in the board book format for those who like to try to tear books (although the larger illustrations in the softback format are nicer). Some 4-year-olds and up may fancy themselves too sophisticated for it.