Lucy and Tom’s Day by Shirley Hughes
Shirley Hughes

Lucy and Tom’s Day by Shirley Hughes

In 1959 Shirley was approached by the publishers Victor Gollancz to create her first picture book, something she’d long been considering after years of illustrating other people’s work. ‘I went back to an idea I had worked on years before of a very simple book about two small children going through an ordinary day. There were, surprisingly, not many of them around in those days.’ Continue reading

Mangoes and Milktarts: Cooking with Katherine Rundell
Things to Make and Do

Mangoes and Milktarts: Cooking with Katherine Rundell

‘Fictional food’s not reliable,’ says Alexei, a character from Katherine Rundell’s third children’s novel the Wolf Wilder. This incorrect assertion is something Rundell disproves again and again in her delicious books. As she says, ‘I think food grounds a story: gives realism to the maddest plot, gives breathing space to the wildest action, brings comfort … Continue reading

Tiny Tim by Helen Oxenbury
Picture Lions

Tiny Tim by Helen Oxenbury

Few people have contributed as much to children’s books as Helen Oxenbury. Best known for illustrating Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, she has also won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice (most recently for her wistful, contemporary take on Alice in Wonderland) and pioneered (arguably invented) picture board books for babies. Tiny Tim … Continue reading

Misty
Comic Book Club

Misty

In January the comic book club met to discuss a reissue of Misty, a British girl’s horror anthology which ran from the late 70s through to the early 80s. It was launched specifically as a girl’s equivalent to 2000 AD, employing some of the sci-fi comic’s best creatives including Pat Mills who provides one of … Continue reading

An Interview with Santa Claus by Margaret Mead illustrated by Thomas Nast
Advent Calendar

An Interview with Santa Claus by Margaret Mead illustrated by Thomas Nast

  Following John Updike, another American cultural heavyweight weighs in with a piece of lightweight seasonal musing today, as anthropologist Margaret Mead records an ‘Interview with Santa Claus’ for what was to be her final publication before her death in 1978. ‘Do you have a few minutes for an interview? Children are asking so many … Continue reading

Once in Royal David’s City by Harold Jones and Kathleen Lines
Advent Calendar

Once in Royal David’s City by Harold Jones and Kathleen Lines

I picked up this telling of the Christmas story on the recommendation of Colin West, a brilliant children’s illustrator with exquisite taste to match. Illustrated by the great Harold Jones, a contemporary of Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, Once in Royal David’s City is the follow up to his most successful work, (also with Kathleen … Continue reading

Winter and the Children by Hilde Hoffman and Beatrice Braun-Fock
Advent Calendar

Winter and the Children by Hilde Hoffman and Beatrice Braun-Fock

Fans of mid century children’s book illustration will find pretty much everything they’re looking for in Winter and the Children. Dapper costumes abound, with children decked in some glorious knitwear, and check out the town mayor dressed to impress in tweed, plus fours and a goatee. There’s an array of different architectural styles on display … Continue reading

Children in East and West by Ingrid Vang Nyman
Ingrid Vang Nyman 100

Children in East and West by Ingrid Vang Nyman

During her short life, the illustrator Ingrid Vang Nyman hardly travelled beyond her native Denmark and Sweden, where she lived and helped create Pippi Longstocking and many other wonderful books. But a new exhibition celebrating her centenary shows that a fascination for distant lands and cultures ran deep throughout her work. In the Christmas of … Continue reading

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster & Edward Ardizzone
Classics

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster & Edward Ardizzone

With a retrospective of the artist Edward Ardizzone opening at the House of Illustration this week, I wanted to showcase one of his lesser known works – Jean Webster’s 1912 classic Daddy Long-Legs. Jean Webster was the grand-niece of Mark Twain; a relationship that suggests literary nepotism but was in fact fraught with difficulties.  Her father had … Continue reading

Lotta by Astrid Lindgren & Beatrice Alemagna
Bad Girl Warning

Lotta by Astrid Lindgren & Beatrice Alemagna

  Big love for a European success story today, as Astrid Lindgren’s tale of a naughty little Swede is reimagined by Italian / French artist Beatrice Alemagna (with reference to the English translation by Gerry Bothmer). Lotta is Astrid’s lesser known child anarchist. Several years Pippi Longstocking’s junior, and the youngest of three siblings, Lotta … Continue reading

Shirley Hughes and Clara Vuillamy’s Christmas Books
Advent Calendar / Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes and Clara Vuillamy’s Christmas Books

  Together with Judith Kerr, Shirley Hughes is the person I look to when I want to be reminded of Christmas past. Lucy and Tom’s Christmas  in particular  feels rather like looking at my own childhood Christmases, laid out in lovely thick gouache. There have been several other wonderful additions to her festive cannon including a … Continue reading

The Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden
Advent Calendar / Book of the Smallfilm

The Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden

    ‘On Christmas morning the Plantaganets woke to hear real carol singers in the street outside. “Peace and goodwill among men,” sang the carol singers. “And among dolls,” said Mr Plantaganet. “I hope among dolls.” Unfortunately for Mr Plantaganet, an abused doll with a crudely drawn pencil moustache on his upper lip, things are … Continue reading

Ed Vere Q&A
Children’s Books That Saved My Life / Q&A

Ed Vere Q&A

Ed Vere is back with a new series of picture books about a scrap of a black kitten called Max. The second book, Max at Night, was published this month in which the kitten turns superhero, fearlessly prowling the city at night. Ed’s picture books draw on classic comic book action and have bold graphic design elements, so I was interested to find out about the books that shaped him as an author. Continue reading

The Original Steampunk – Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright
Comics

The Original Steampunk – Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright

Written between 1978 and 1989 Luther Arkwright can lay claim to being one of the very first, fully realised Steampunk novels. The retro futurist genre can be seen everywhere nowadays, in children’s books like Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines books and comic book franchises like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Talbot rarely receives much credit … Continue reading

The Book I Read Until it Fell Apart – Tintin  Prisoners of the Sun
Children’s Books That Saved My Life / Comics

The Book I Read Until it Fell Apart – Tintin Prisoners of the Sun

Reading it again today I can see exactly what attracted me to this story. Tintin drags the increasingly eccentric Captain Haddock out of his family home on a mission down the Amazon and up the Peruvian Andes, where he hopes to to lift the Inca’s curse. Prisoners of the Sun is the perfect Tintin adventure, with a string of amazing action sequences and dramatic set pieces. Continue reading

Mr. Miacca
Märchen

Mr. Miacca

As a child, along with books, the other essential thing in my life was my top loading cassette recorder with its library of half recorded songs from the top 40. I also had in my collection a handful of ‘listening and reading’ story cassettes which played till they stretched, warped and unravelled inside the machine. … Continue reading

Alan Garner’s Caves
A-Z of Places

Alan Garner’s Caves

A is for Alderley Edge. Throughout his life Alan Garner has drawn on the landscape and legends of Alderley Edge, the place that has been home to his family for many, many generations. It has become more than just a dramatic backdrop though, its hills, rivers and most of all its stones have become the defining character of his writing, providing a link throughout his stories, and a connection with the deep history of the area. Continue reading

The Pogles
Book of the Smallfilm

The Pogles

Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, fresh from reimagining the Norse sagas in cardboard moved on to the dark corners of the European folk tale for their next major venture, The Pogles. Viewers were invited into the woodland behind Firmin’s barnyard studio in the Kent countryside, where a family of centuries old tree dwelling small people … Continue reading

Nancy by Ernie Bushmiller
Comics

Nancy by Ernie Bushmiller

I sometimes ask my children when they sit reading the Beano of a Saturday morning, faces as straight as if they were contemplating the FTSE 100, whether they find the venerable comic funny? ‘Oh yes,’ they reply in all seriousness, ‘very funny.’ Yet no laughs are ever forthcoming. Keen to feed their interest in this … Continue reading

The Puffin Club
Puffin / Q&A

The Puffin Club

The Puffin Club was the groundbreaking venture launched by editor Kaye Webb in 1967 that changed children’s books forever. The club broke down the barrier between authors and young readers, bringing them together at Puffin parties and in the pages of Puffin Post. Webb helped create the world our children our now lucky enough to inhabit, … Continue reading

Grimm by Cruikshank
Märchen

Grimm by Cruikshank

  1823 is where it really began for illustrated children’s books in Britain; with the first publication of tales from the Brothers Grimm in English, illustrated by George Cruikshank – a man who had found fame drawing pictures of the Prince Regent blowing off. There had been publications for children before Grimms’ Fairy Tales; publishers … Continue reading

Super Hairy Animals
New Books / Q&A

Super Hairy Animals

I’ve been having a bit of a Beatles week, listening my way through their records and revisiting their films. All of which provided the backdrop against which I read two recent picture books by the Superhairies – the creative team of artist Angus Mackinnon and writer James Thorp. The Lobster, Weasel, Puffin, Unicorn, Baboon, Pig … Continue reading

Maurice Sendak – A Day in the Life
Sendak

Maurice Sendak – A Day in the Life

In 1982 Maurice Sendak was interviewed by the BBC’s arts documentary series Omnibus. ‘The highly reclusive writer’ had just completed designs for a production of Profokiev’s opera, The Love of Three Oranges. He speaks candidly and widely about his life and career in children’s book illustration. The interview showcases Sendak‘s sharp mind and even sharper … Continue reading

Mutants, Mayhem, Mistletoe – 2000AD at Christmastime
Advent Calendar / Comics

Mutants, Mayhem, Mistletoe – 2000AD at Christmastime

Christmas and comic book sci-fi don’t always go together that well. It’s there at the kitschier ends of the genre – ‘Happy Christmas Superdog. And thank you Wonder Woman, you’ve done a neat job turning my Fortress of Solitude into a winter wonderland.’ Or ‘Holy immaculate conception Batman.’ That sort of thing. There’s one notable … Continue reading

Once Upon a Northern Night by Isabelle Arsenault
Advent Calendar

Once Upon a Northern Night by Isabelle Arsenault

In Once Upon a Northern Night the French/ Canadian illustrator Isabelle Arsenault collaborates with writer Jean Pendziwol, who draws on her native Lake Superior and northern Ontario. Arsenault’s style is painterly but with a strong graphic design element that helps create artwork that take your far beyond the world in which they are set. It’s … Continue reading

The Fish in the Bathtub by Eoin Colfer
A-Z of Places / Advent Calendar

The Fish in the Bathtub by Eoin Colfer

W is for Warsaw. ‘Neither Germans nor communists will keep me from a fish steak this Christmas Eve.’ ‘What does German look like?’ Lucja asked. ‘Like a communist’, Grandpa Feliks said crossly. ‘But with better boots.’ If you’re after an original, heartwarming Christmas book without the usual turkey or trimmings, then look no further than … Continue reading