Tag Archives: Children’s books

Pictures take me back to the story

Who doesn’t love illustrations? That’s a rhetorical question. I doubt that anybody would take offense to illustrations being interspersed amongst the text of a story.

The Guardian treats its readers to a taste of a new series of recently  illustrated children’s classics.

Walkers have put together some of the world’s greatest children’s literature with the best contemporary illustrators to create a beautiful and accessible collection of classics for a new generation. Here we gather together images from the first five titles in the Walker Illustrated Classics series.

Even if you’ve read these classics, the illustrations may entice you to have another look. For me, the fresh visual interpretation is even more enticing considering how well worn these stories are.  I’m curious as to how an illustator can create a new perspective when so many have done the same and so successfully. And of course, who can resist discovering the work of ‘the best contemporary illustrators’? The Guardian gives us a taste of the first 5 titles in the series accompanied by the illustrators’ reflections – a sure hook to wanting to see the rest.

Paul Howard illustrated Classic poetry and reveals his initial apprehension:

The idea of illustrating classic poetry terrified me at first – I can’t remember jokes let alone poems from my school days and consequently think of myself as a ‘poetus ignoramus’. To my great surprise this worked in my favour and I found myself embarking on a fantastic voyage of discovery.


Howard’s personal challenge to tackle poetry could be an inspiration for the current reading generation for whom poetry has become largely engimatic.

When I was battling to understand some of the poems, Michael Rosen would read them to me aloud. Listening to him was like clearing a misty window and letting the sun pour in.

Helen Oxenbury’s unmistakable style brings a contemporary realism to Alice in Wonderland.

I admire Tenniel’s original illustrations enormously, but I find his typically Victorian style rather stiff …


Inga Moore’s reflection provides a fascinating honesty:

The Secret Garden is one of the greatest books for children of all time and it took me a long while to pluck up the courage to illustrate it. What made me think I could do it justice? I knew a merely decorative approach wouldn’t do for a work with such depth of meaning so I decided to bring out as much of its meaning as I could in my pictures, carefully placing them next to the words they illustrated in the hope that the two together would make a more vivid whole …

I love the atmosphere of this picture, and the attention to detail (notice the tiny red bird high in the tree).


Nicola Bayley combines contemporary realism with the exotic in her interpretation of  Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle book.

For me, illustrating a classic is treading a fine line between authenticity and beauty.


Chris Riddell brings his own style to the classic Don Quixote:

Very early on I decided not to be daunted by the size of the book and to approach light-heartedly, in an attempt to reflect the satire and humour in the work. Don Quixote is a great big book that satires great big books, an epic romance that pokes fun at epic romances. I looked at the paintings of Velázquez, and used costumes and settings from his great Royal portraits to give the illustrations a 17th-century feel, but I also wanted a fantasy feel to the illustrations, so the giants and monsters came out of my imagination …


In light of Anne Fine’s recent outspokenness about the grimness of contemporary Young Adult fiction, Walker’s collection of contemporary illustators’ re-envisioning of well loved classics, may be just what we need. As much as I love the honesty and power of modern fiction for young people, I don’t mind revisiting my old fantasy haunts, entering the rich, illustrated world which has always been such a tantalising, albeit temporary, escape from the everyday. If, as children, we fed our imagination and creativity with favourite illustations of fantastic tales,  why shouldn’t we revisit now and then to take nourishment?

#14 Google book search

Little suck a thumb 2

Originally uploaded by daniel.schenzer

I thought I’d search an old German children’s book to test out Google Book Search. Can’t believe it, not only did I get a result, but also whole page images (which I couldn’t copy), extracts of popular passages and interesting background information. I still can’t believe this book – so violent and politically incorrect. It’s fascinating to see what was important for children of nineteenth century Germany. The author wrote and illustrated it in 1845 as a Christmas present for his 3 year old son. I’m not sure of the psychological damage done to this little boy as he pored over stories with gruesome consequences that befell children who tormented animals, played with matches, sucked their thumbs and refused to eat their soup. As you can see from the picture I’ve included about the boy who sucked his thumb, the illustrations spare no detail. Actually, it reminds me a little of Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons – not the moralising part, just the violence. I’m not sure what I thought of all this when I read it as a young girl. I must have realised that it wasn’t a realistic depiction of what would happen to me if I displayed any of this behaviour. Grimms’ fairy tales were no less gruesome. I think kids like that, actually. Look at older kids watching South Park.

The Google book search gives a synopsis, reviews, other editions, where to buy or borrow from a library, the option to add to your Google library or write a review. You can search genres within fiction and non-fiction.

The elephant and the balloon

I know that many people are kicking against this Web 2.0 learning curve. I’m not saying everyone, but I have spoken to several (more than 3) people who are finding this experience more pain than gain. Well, I just want to say , don’t give up! Once you pass a certain threshold, you suddenly get stuck into it, and you know what, you can’t stop.

Personally, I’m  finding  that I have an opportunity to learn which I feel is always a privilege. As a child I enjoyed learning at school, always something to look forward to. There was a time in my life (quite a prolonged time ) when I didn’t have the opportunity to learn as much as I was used to. I’d say that these were the years when my children were very young. Sure, I had to learn stuff, but you know what I mean, there was no time for me.

This program has given me the opportunity for exploration and creativity. I thrive on that. Without it, I’m not in a good state. As I read others’ blogs, the links in these, look at possibilities offered by Web 2.0 applications, I feel like I could do anything. Lately, I’ve decided I could write a children’s book. Do you ever think that? How hard could it be?  Well, here’s a YouTube video from the British comedy show Black Books that I think illustrates what would happen if I ever tried to write a children’s book.

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