Category Archives: Picture book

Debi draws

I drew quite a passable rabbit, if I say so myself.

Thursday to Saturday this week Stirling libraries had a little online book festival, Smallprint 2021. You can find it on Facebook. That’s also where you can find (I don’t know how long for, possibly forever) the videos where several of our best author/illustrators showed off their skills, and read books to young fans.

Debi Gliori welcomed us to her International Shedquarters, just outside Edinburgh. She likes rabbits. So do I, as long as they leave my garden alone. Debi showed us all her rabbit books, and then she showed us her sketches of inspagination (her word) for rabbits, one of which went from being Alfie to being Pip, in The Scariest Thing of All.

Pip is so afraid that he makes long lists of everything that scares him. Debi read the whole book about Pip and the new big thing that scared him.

After that she showed us how to draw our own rabbit, and I absolutely aced it. And after that, Debi wanted us to draw our own very scariest thing, using our own items from around the house. She showed us her scariest, which was two pairs of scissors, the four-legged pest of Corona. Complete with eyeballs.

She finished off by reminding us that it’s the insides of our heads that are scariest of all.

Being rather professional, Debi had prepared proper end of movie slides, including the camera person’s name. By witchy coincidence I had been thinking of Katie Rose just the other day.

These two will go far.

The Carnegie longlist

It’s longlist time.

This is the Carnegie one:

And here is the Kate Greenaway list:

I’m pleased with both. I believe I have only read four and a half of them, but I am still pleased. I’ll leave them here for four weeks and then we’ll have a peep at the shortlists.

The Invisible

Tom Percival’s The Invisible is a picture book with a message. It gets this across by having a captivating story about young Isabel and her family, falling on hard times, supported by the most beautiful art on every page.

The family are terribly poor, and in the end they have to move from their cold and spare home, to a flat on a very much less attractive council estate on the other side of town where they know no one.

After a while, Isabel discovers that she’s turning invisible in the stark and dismal new surroundings. But after a while longer, she suddenly sees other invisible people, like the lady with the flower pots, the bird man and the bike repair boy.

By joining in and doing things with these people, they all discover a new meaning to life, and they become visible.

The story is an important one, but to me it’s Tom’s art on every page that steals the show. To be able to paint a ‘portrait’ of these unlovely council tower blocks, the cold wind, the snow, and shops filled with ‘stuff’ that people can’t afford, is a miracle.

I’m hoping this book will be read and enjoyed by small readers and their adults. I know I would have liked to read this with someone.

Draw for me

Continuing with The Author journal, and my time travel, I found several good articles in the Summer issue. One of them was by Sarah McIntyre, who illustrates, but also writes. The odd thing was that as I absentmindedly stared at the double spread lying open in front of me, I saw the writing in the middle of the illustration, and thought ‘that looks like Sarah McIntyre’s writing’. And it was. It would have been even more immediately obvious if I’d read the byline or looked at the picture.

It seems – although I knew this already – that wannabe authors contact illustrators and ask them to do their picture book. Because obviously this is what artists in the book world do; hope some amateur will come along and their fortune will be made. Just like that.

Whereas they work hard, because a book takes a long time, and they have contracts and deadlines to stick to, and usually the publishers are the ones who will know who will suit which story.

Sometimes an illustrator has to choose between answering these emails [politely], or spend time with their families. Hard choice, yes?

But you know, it’s an irresistible thought. Who would I want to illustrate for me? The answer is most of them.

Again, as you know, I have no real book plans, and certainly not picture books. But there is that thought at the back of my mind. If I had a book, it would at least require a cover image. And so my mind goes. I like a lot of illustrators, and their work. My solution is to ask a new person for each book I publish. Or, more likely, my imaginary publisher will in their infinite wisdom commission new cover art for every book I have coming out.

The Tracy Beaker look, maybe. Kate Leiper would make my heart leap. Debi Gliori. Sean Tan. Mairi Hedderwick.

What the pages inside these lovely books would have on them is anybody’s guess. I have no idea. But just as some people begin with having the perfect book title, so I have a great cover coming. I just know it.

Love – Giraffe Can’t Dance

I have a fondness for Giles Andreae. (Just can’t spell his name with any great accuracy. Although it is a very nice name.) I also have a fondness for his lovely illustrations. Except I am always reminded he writes the words and people like Guy Parker-Rees looks after the looks of giraffes and other characters.

This board book is rather lovely. It is probably more for toddlers than babies, despite its board book-ness. The cover is purple with a giraffe, and silver stars. It’s lovely.

It’s full of things to love, and ways to love. I’m just not sure why giraffes can’t dance. Despite the title, I mean. But they can love.

If you love a little one, you might want to read to them about giraffes and love.

The Wolf’s Secret

The Wolf’s Secret by Myriam Dahman and Nicolas Digard, beautifully illustrated in autumnal colours by Júlia Sarda, is a romantically traditional tale.

It’s about love, and loss, and about being different. There is a wolf who isn’t exactly like wolves are meant to be, and we find out how he changes when he sees a beautiful young woman in the woods.

He can think about nothing but her singing. Then the day comes when she no longer sings, and he knows he has to do something. But what if she might be scared of him?

Well, you know the drill, something magical helps our wolf to get close, and eventually they both see each other for what they are.

The Robin and the Reindeer

The time has come to mention books for Christmas. I’ve been sitting on this one for some time, and it is Very Sweet. The Robin and the Reindeer by Rosa Bailey and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña is the very thing you need if you want to feel good about the approaching festive season.

A young reindeer is moving through her first snow with the herd with all the other reindeer, heading south before the weather gets too cold. It’s a bit Bambi, in a way, except mother stays alive and the large male lead reindeer is not her father, but the feeling is quite similar.

She gets lost. But she stays safe because she actually remembers what her mother told her. And then she meets a friendly robin. He is very red, and he agrees to show her the way, and does so by sitting on her nose, shining in a tremendously red sort of way.

Is it real? Or does our little reindeer magically turn into a temporary Rudolf?

Anyway, our reindeer finds her herd again and all is fine. Lovely and wintery and will lead the way to Christmas.

Bookwitch bites #148

The trip to Spain might have been fake – fake Spain with rain, not so much fake trip – but this week Kirkland Ciccone went to Sweden. Only in cyberspace, but it’s hard to travel these days, so it will have to do. I’ve been itching to have a photo published on Boktugg, and when Kirkie ended up on my television screen last Thursday, I decided to send in my picture of the occasion, and they’ve printed not only the photo, but my words about him, including the murderous porridge.

I must think before I press send…

This week gave us the long nominations lists for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals for 2021, and as always, they are good lists. They give pleasure and hope to those on them, and I feel considerable guilt for having read only a few. But those few were Very Good. I’m sure they will make the longlists and maybe the shortlists too. Even if only one – in each category – can win.

Somewhere you can win a bit more easily is when it comes to pay. Equal pay. I had kept a link to something from absolutely ages ago, but ended up never getting to it to comment, so deleted it. Now in The Bokseller I see that the gender pay gap at PRH – Penguin Random House – has widened. That’s what I would call going in the wrong direction. If you really, really want to improve pay equality, you do. More money to the women, and not necessarily less to the men, but not increasing their salaries disproportionately. Pay is something you can determine in an office. No need to wait for pandemics to end or for politicians to grow sensible.

And the same goes for reviews of children’s books. Last year The Bookseller reports only 4.9% of book reviews were for children’s books, and a year later this had managed to slide down to 4.3%. 50% is too much to hope for, I suppose, but maybe a little more than barely 5%? I forget who said this in the last few days, but children’s books matter more, because they shape their readers into the kind of people they will grow up to be. I do my best, but as you well know, that is not a lot, and my viral reading has plummeted.

My local newspaper has launched this year’s charitable collection for Christmas presents for children who might not get any. I am gearing up to give them books again. Especially with the above in mind, but also with that in mind, I fear that plastic toys in primary colours will be more welcome. At least by the adults sorting the gifts. Except I know there are children who don’t actually own any books, and who would be happy to be given one.

And finally, thirty years on, we are looking at the last book by Jacqueline Wilson to be illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Not that we have been wanting this to end, but as they say, the time has come for Nick to concentrate on his own work. Here at Bookwitch Towers we will be forever grateful for the way he has captured Jacqueline’s characters and made so many children want to read her books. I have on occasion wanted to simply sit there and stroke the gorgeous covers, especially that pink one over fifteen years ago. And who can beat Tracy Beaker?

Zooming in on Linda Bondestam

This evening the Anglo-Swedish Society hosted Linda Bondestam on Zoom, all the way from Finland. Hers is the kind of name I know really well, except when I start thinking about it and I realise I know nothing.

Linda is a Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator of, mostly, children’s books. She has more recently taken to writing a couple as well. When telling us about one of those books, which was about death, Linda described how she’d had to decide which character to kill, to bring the message home to the young reader, but deciding that killing the main character might be too harsh.

In the beginning there were political pushchairs. Or something like that. Ulf Stark, whom she admired greatly, asked her to illustrate a piece he’d written, and it seems to have taken off and started some trend to do with armed tank style pushchairs in Eastern Europe.

The Anglo-Swedish chair person suggested she could be the next Tove Jansson, and possibly also Maurice Sendak. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek Linda agreed.

There was a short clip of Ulf Stark reading his own words, and later on Linda read some of her words, translated into English.

Linda’s pictures are wonderfully quirky and colourful, and to prove that good art goes anywhere, she also puts it on fabric, showing us shirts and stuff made from her designs. (Contact Linda if you want anything like that. The website is not here yet.) I said to Daughter that maybe she could order a duvet cover, and no sooner had I mentioned it when someone on Zoom suggested sheets…

One very young viewer was so inspired that she/he produced some of their own art while watching, which we all got to admire. Such is the power of the internet.

And Linda keeps winning awards.

An Engineer Like Me

I’m the first person to be in favour of more science for girls.

So this new picture book about a young girl asking her gran a lot of questions about science, is just right. Zara does seem to notice absolutely everything, but then, her gran has answers for all of it as well. She’s a useful gran to have.

They go for an outing, and they come past all sorts of things that need questions asked and answered. Personally I’m not sure I trust the ideas behind loop-the-loops, but I have no intention of looping anything anymore.

And I have always been fascinated by Hedy Lamarr, who despite being a beautiful actress could do serious and useful science. It just goes to show how prejudiced I am. I shouldn’t be more impressed by her than, say, by gran.

Gran has all the answers, because she is, of course, an engineer.