Tag Archives: Art

Katie’s Picture Show

This is the last (of my pile) of James Mayhew’s picture books about Katie, but I understand that it was James’s first one, which was re-issued a couple of years ago to celebrate 25 years of Katie misbehaving in art galleries. ‘Katie had never been to an art gallery before,’ but it might as well have said something about Katie never having climbed into famous works of art before.

James Mayhew, Katie's Picture Show

Here we discover how she began (after all, how do you find out you can climb into art?), and it does explain why she has continued her art visitations ever since. I sympathise with Grandma who needs to sit down as soon as they arrive. It’s what I do, too.

In Katie’s Picture Show Katie meets some of the best known art, art that even I have seen in real life. But none of this spilling tea on elegant French ladies or stealing pieces of cake, shifting her booty from picture to picture. She helps herself to quite a lot of food, but then I’ve never before considered that people – or tigers – in pictures might be hungry. Or bored and lonely, wanting a conversation or a play session.

James Mayhew, Katie's Picture Show

Modern art, on the other hand, can prove dangerously slippery, and Katie ‘didn’t want to be eaten by a piece of modern art.’ That particular escapade shows us that the guards in the art gallery aren’t such complete idiots after all. This one knew exactly what Katie was up to.

(So it might not merely be Katie’s personal talent, but a more general magic. Don’t touch the displays!)

The Greystones Press

It’s not every day that a new publishing company is born. The Greystones Press is a brand new publisher’s of quality books, started by Mary Hoffman and her husband Stephen Barber.

Very sensibly they are sticking to what they care about most, which is literature, art, music, history, mythology and fairy tales. This will sound silly, but I feel quite excited at the thought of this, in a world too full of publishing companies who concentrate on, well, other things. And it’s because they do, that people like Mary and Stephen are needed. They want to publish the kind of books that won’t necessarily appeal to everyone, or sell in vast numbers. (Although it’d obviously be nice if they did.)

We’ve got used to self-publishing by now. Authors who either can’t get commercially published, or who want to have some level of control over what happens to their books, publish either ebooks and/or print copies. But most of them don’t go all the way and start something that will publish other people’s books as well.

This is quite a brave thing to do, but then where would we be if no one tried something new occasionally? Mary clearly has a lot of experience after her years of writing over a hundred books. One of them, the one about David, is going to be part of their first list, and it’s a book that personifies what The Greystones Press stands for. They also have plans for translated novels later on, which I look forward to.

Among the other first books will be Seven Miles of Steel Thistles by Katherine Langrish, whose knowledge of fairy tales I have long been in awe of, and here she will expand on what she’s been writing about for several years on her blog with the same name.

Mary also has a YA/adult crossover book for The Greystones Press, called Shakespeare’s Ghost, which rather suitably will be published on April 23rd. Jules Cashford and Kate Snow complete the first list of books this spring.

3, 2, 1… Draw!

Who doesn’t want to draw in books?

I can still remember the secret thrill of doing just that, many years ago. Either hoping to improve some of the existing artwork, or playing libraries, and ‘having to’ draw the library stamps…

Serge Bloch, 3, 2, 1... Draw!

Well, in 3, 2, 1… Draw! by Serge Bloch you can. It’s – almost – the whole purpose of his picture book. An invitation to draw clothes peg crocodiles, book covers, scary eyes, or anything else that tickles your fancy.

Serge Bloch, 3, 2, 1... Draw!

Serge provides photographs of all sorts of things from tomatoes and conkers to prickly pot plants and empty picture frames. He has then drawn suggestions for what you might want to draw yourself, so you can either copy his crazy ideas, or you come up with even better ones and draw them instead.

It’s very tempting.

I can see one drawback to a book that gives you permission to do those forbidden things, however. It might give you a taste for more, and before you know it, you’ll be merrily drawing away in any old book you find.

But that’s between you and your mother.

Fire Colour One

It’s been too long. I’ve missed Jenny Valentine, but she’s been ill. And that’s why she knows how to write a book like Fire Colour One. Finding Violet Park was about death, and so is this one. And it’s also about life.

Jenny Valentine, Fire Colour One

Iris is a teenage ‘arsonist.’ No, perhaps that is too strong a term for what she does, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Iris likes setting fire to things. She feels better when there is fire.

Her rather uncaring and unpleasant mother and stepfather don’t exactly help. After many years in the US they have returned to Britain, and as luck would have it, Iris’s long lost super wealthy father is lying on his death bed. In her mother’s eyes this means a great potential inheritance, so off they go to visit and to get a closer look at all those lovely paintings Ernest owns. Iris would rather not go, since she feels she doesn’t know this man who abandoned her as a toddler.

But he doesn’t die immediately, and they get to know each other a bit. We also learn a few things about Iris in America, about some of her fires, as well as her only friend, Thurston, who’s been lost in the move, and whom she can’t contact.

You can guess at some of what will happen in this book, but I didn’t see the really big thing coming. Fire Colour One is a lovely, life affirming story, despite Iris’s fondness for matches and dry stuff. Jenny’s writing really is magic.

Katie and the Starry Night

Here is Katie, back in the art gallery, back causing mayhem, in James Mayhew’s Katie and the Starry Night. Which, as any old person will know, is about Vincent van Gogh, and you probably know all the words to the song as well.

Katie’s Grandma feels sleepy, so ‘rests’ on a bench while Katie looks at a painting with lots of stars in. And she helps herself to one of them. After which mayhem breaks loose, as the stars float away, out of the picture, with Katie in hot pursuit.

James Mayhew, Katie and the Starry Night

In order to catch them she needs the help of various people from some other of Vincent’s paintings, as well as implements such as chairs and ladders and fishing nets. Luckily the people in the paintings are helpful and up for anything, so those stars are eventually caught and returned to where they belong.

In turn, Katie and every reader now knows these works of art rather intimately.

I know I say this every time, but I felt especially close to this story. I used to be very fond of van Gogh. In fact, during my year as a student in Brighton, there was a van Gogh in my bedroom, and for a while I was awfully worried it was the genuine deal.

Numbers, or is it art?

One, three, forty, eighty, one hundred. This Numbers book by artist Paul Thurlby might be ‘simply’ a children’s picture book to teach them numbers.

Paul Thurlby, Numbers

But I don’t think so. It’s art. The adult in me could – almost – be willing to tear the pages out and frame them. Luckily I have no wall space left.

Most books that teach young children numbers go to ten. This one goes to one hundred, by doing one to ten and then the tens up to a hundred. (So you get more for your money…)

Paul Thurlby, Numbers

There is nothing average about these pictures. Take four, for instance. You get the Beatles, the Fab Four, no less. (I just have to tear that one out!)

I know nothing about retro-modern Paul, but it seems he’s also responsible for Alphabet, and I bet that’s wonderful to look at, too.

You don’t need a child for this book.

Katie and the Impressionists

I suspect Grandma. Too much funny business happens when Katie is with her. This time it’s her birthday, and Katie wants to find some flowers for Grandma. Where better than in a work of art?

James Mayhew, Katie and the Impressionists

I can’t think of a more fun way of introducing young readers to classical art than to show them James Mayhew’s books. They will learn without even realising.

In this book Katie jumps in and out of Impressionist paintings, covering quite a few famous works of art. I wish I’d known it was possible to do this, back when I used to return to the Courtauld Insititute every time I was in London. Those were the days!

It’s so interesting the way James can shape an actual story out of several paintings, making a coherent plot as Katie falls in and out of masterpieces. The last tiny picture is really very clever indeed.