Latest Entries
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

The List of Betterment
Lists

The List of Betterment

Having read Andy Miller’s ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’, a book in which he changes his life by reading fifty classic books, I’ve been forced to take a long hard look at my own reading habits. Like most people I am not entirely honest about the books I read. Sometimes it’s just easier to say … 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

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Advent Calendar / The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Tomie dePaola

In previous years we’ve seen a modern update and a tactile app version, but this folksy 1980 edition takes us about as close as it is possible to the mid 19th century America of its author Clement Moore’s imagination. Tomie dePaola, author of the magic pasta pot adventures of Strega Nona, sets his version of … 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

Jennie
Märchen / Sendak

Jennie

What do you do after you’ve created the greatest picture book of all time? It’s a question only Maurice Sendak could answer. In between his two great triumphs – Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen he turned to his two great inspirations, the fairy tale and his dog Jennie. The resulting … Continue reading

Reginald Pepper
Classics

Reginald Pepper

Pepper and Jam is the story of two oversized cats, the aptly named Longbody and his noisy brother Tractor. They live in an end of terrace house in Swindon with their humans, the social climbing Mrs Pepper and her son Reginald, who also provides the illustrations. When Mrs Pepper plans a holiday the cats do … Continue reading

Marianne Dreams
Classics

Marianne Dreams

Marianne is a twelve year old girl confined to bed for months with a debilitating illness. Tired but restless she plunders a keepsake box handed down from her great grandmother to her mother and finds amongst the shiny trinkets a nice pencil, ‘It was one of those pencils that are simply asking to be written or drawn with.’ Continue reading

Rooftoppers
Field Trips / New Books

Rooftoppers

‘Lyra barged open the door, dragged her rickety chair to the window, flung wide the casement, and scrambled out. There was a lead-lined stone gutter a foot wide just below the window, and once she was standing in that, she turned and clambered up over the rough tiles until she stood on the topmost ridge … Continue reading

Charlie et la Chocolaterie illustrated by Michel Siméon
Charlie at 50 / Roald Dahl

Charlie et la Chocolaterie illustrated by Michel Siméon

Voici Charlie. Bonjour, Charlie! Bonjour, bonjour et re-bonjour. In 1967 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in France for the first time. As I mentioned in my previous article this was nearly a full year before any British publisher thought it worthy of publication. It came with brand new illustrations by Michel Siméon the … Continue reading

Pancake Day
Festivals

Pancake Day

‘This is Pancake day,’ said the Professor, taking his four pairs of spectacles off, and getting them just as mixed up as he usually got his five pairs. ‘It is a festival that is inclined to die out, because although people like pancakes they won’t trouble to cook them. Too much trouble. Too much mess. … Continue reading

The Black Dossier – Return of the ‘Golliwogg’
Classics / Comics

The Black Dossier – Return of the ‘Golliwogg’

In 2007 Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill published The Black Dossier, the third volume in their comic book series ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen‘. Spanning an alternative 20th Century the League are a group of government agents based on characters from Victorian genre fiction. In The Black Dossier the league square up to a very unreconstructed spy called ‘Jimmy Bond’. But they’re aided by an even more controversial figure. Continue reading

The Night Before Christmas by William Wallace Denslow
Advent Calendar / The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas by William Wallace Denslow

William Walace Denslow’s Saint Nicholas comes dressed in blue furs, a Rip Van Winkle hat and pipe gripped permanently between his teeth. ‘He looked just like a pedller opening his pack.’ I’d forgotten just how much of the Night Before Christmas was given over to describing the slightly alarming appearance of its protagonist, before reassuring … Continue reading

Pippi’s Christmas Guests by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman
Advent Calendar / Ingrid Vang Nyman 100

Pippi’s Christmas Guests by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman

Nobody does Christmas quite like Pippi Longstocking. Last year the pigtailed pirate’s daughter put on an after christmas party that culminated in the guests climbing the tree to recover their presents. In Pippi’s Christmas Guests, taken from the second volume of comics by Astrid Lindgren and Ingrid Vang Nyman, our hero faces spending December 25th … Continue reading

Fantastic Libraries
Reading

Fantastic Libraries

‘There’s so much to see and smell here! Whole levels of the library that nobody has been into for a hundred thousand years! Locked rooms full of ancient secrets. Treasure! Knowledge! Fun‘ Garth Nix’s Lirael. When Birmingham’s new mega library opened last week I was blown away by the sheer scale and heartened by a … Continue reading

The Winter Sleepwalker
Quentin Blake

The Winter Sleepwalker

I’ve been banging on about Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake for quite some time now. So I thought I’d better redress the balance and look at the work of the man who was in my opinion an equal partner in their creative relationship. Another equally important collaboration began several years before his work with Dahl. … Continue reading

Eloise
Bad Girl Warning

Eloise

Has there ever been a bad girl with a better pedigree than Eloise? Created by a Hollywood musical star and featuring a six your old free spirit who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York with her beer swilling British nanny, a trainer wearing turtle and nary a parent in sight. Eloise's life at … Continue reading