The Twelve Days of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith
Advent Calendar

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith

Brian Wildsmith, came to prominence in the sixties as one of the great innovators in children’s picture books, combining words and imagery in striking new ways. He produced many Christmas books during his career including Mary and A Christmas Story, taking the traditional story of the Nativity and reinterpreted it in his visually arresting style. … Continue reading

The Fir Tree – Christmas Comes to Moominvalley
Advent Calendar / Tove Jansson

The Fir Tree – Christmas Comes to Moominvalley

The Moomins aren’t a naturally Christmassy species. They prefer to spend their winters tucked behind an old boiler, or huddled together in their drawing room. You wouldn’t have thought the irascible Hemulens would have much truck with the celebration either, other than to give them something else to get cross about. But in The Fir … Continue reading

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Kes Gray and Claire Powell
Advent Calendar / The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Kes Gray and Claire Powell

It’s the ‘Happy Birthday’ of children’s literature, a poem constructed from iron girders and designed to stay standing even as the ground shifts beneath it and the holiday it represents changes out of all recognition. The Night Before Christmas is the original and perhaps even the best Christmas book. It’s been interpreted by countless artists … Continue reading

50 Books About Boats
Books About Boats / Lists

50 Books About Boats

Pirates, shipwrecks, voyages into the unknown, floods and mysterious strangers. Boats provide a useful function in children’s books. Over the next few months I’ll be writing about my fifty favourite adventures about boats. From fantastical nautical epics to salty graphic yarns, we’ll see how these stories form a central strand of children’s literature, and also … Continue reading

Father Christmas’s Last Present by Quentin Blake, Marie-Aude Murail and Elvire Murail
Advent Calendar / Quentin Blake

Father Christmas’s Last Present by Quentin Blake, Marie-Aude Murail and Elvire Murail

‘Since his parents couldn’t stop taking about Father Christmas, Julien had decided to pretend to believe in him for another year. So he had written a letter to ask for a present.’ Julien is getting to old for Father Christmas, or so he has been led to believe. But he’s not quite ready to let … Continue reading

Marguerite’s Christmas by India Desjardins and Pascal Blanchet
Advent Calendar

Marguerite’s Christmas by India Desjardins and Pascal Blanchet

Reviewing as many Christmas books as I have, you become attuned to some recurrent themes: anticipation, togetherness and charity pop up again and again. Often amongst the joy there’s a little melancholy. Less commonly there is loneliness. Like Orlando Weeks’ The Gritterman, Marguerite’s Christmas deals with loneliness in a fascinating way. Instead of the usual … Continue reading

Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida
Advent Calendar

Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida

One thing you might notice about many of these advent posts is their overwhelming whiteness. I’m not talking about an abundance of snow and ice, rather the skin colour of their protagonists. There are exceptions, like Jack Ezra Keats’ classic The Snowy Day or Lauren St John’s brilliant The Snow Angel, but for the most part it might … Continue reading

Christmas Dinner of Souls by Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield
Advent Calendar

Christmas Dinner of Souls by Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield

Scary stories have always been part and parcel of Christmas, from creepy characters like Belsnickel to M.R. James terrifying pupils with his ghost stories around a blazing fire. Ross Montgomery is the latest sick individual to try his hand at this dark art: ‘For me, horror and Christmas work perfectly together. There’s something indescribably creepy … Continue reading

I Killed Father Christmas by Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell
Advent Calendar

I Killed Father Christmas by Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell

Less violent than I might have hoped, Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell’s I Killed Father Christmas begins instead with an argument about the economy. ‘I don’t care about poor children or the economy, I want a robot and a racing car, and a helicopter that really flies.’ Jo-Jo is dragged into his parents’ constant arguments … Continue reading

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Karl James Mountford & Maudie Powell-Tuck
Advent Calendar

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Karl James Mountford & Maudie Powell-Tuck

If anyone has helped shape the look of children’s books over the last couple of years it’s Karl James Mountfield. His covers and illustrations for books including M.G. Leonard’s Beetle Queen, Jennifer Bell’s the Uncommoners and Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair Mysteries have all leapt off the bookshelves and into the bestseller’s lists. Now Mountford has teamed … Continue reading

The Box of Delights adapted for stage by Piers Torday
Advent Calendar

The Box of Delights adapted for stage by Piers Torday

December 1986. It’s the run up to Christmas and I have become obsessed by the BBC television adaption of John Masefield’s Box of Delights. It’s perfect in every way, from the twinkly rendition of the third movement of Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s A Carol Symphony, to the snowy old English setting that melts into glorious effects laden high … Continue reading

One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton
Advent Calendar

One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton

A combination seemingly put together to cater specifically for my tastes, One Christmas Wish brings together the author of one of my books of the year (Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer) with the artist behind one of the best Christmas picture books of recent years (Emily Sutton’s The Christmas Eve Tree). Thankfully they don’t disappoint. ‘It was … Continue reading

The Snow Sister and a Night at the Frost Fair by Emma Carroll
Advent Calendar

The Snow Sister and a Night at the Frost Fair by Emma Carroll

Two short-ish winter tales by the historical children’s novelist and self-confessed snow obsessive, Emma Carroll, who transports readers to a late 19th century frost fair and a family mystery on the streets of a Victorian town near Bath. Carroll’s debut novel Frost Hollow Hall was a superbly creepy winter ghost story, and in the Snow Sister … Continue reading

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

The White Lands of Raymond Briggs
Advent Calendar / Raymond Briggs

The White Lands of Raymond Briggs

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Raymond Briggs laboured over several books and two massive treasuries containing countless fairy Tales and nursery rhymes, creating one of the most complete visual libraries of Mother Goose and Co. by a single artist. It’s not difficult to see why these often outlandish poems and songs might appeal to someone with Briggs’ … 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