Tag Archives: James Mayhew

Get Colouring With Katie

Get those colouring pens out! James Mayhew’s Katie is back, and this time she has some half-finished masterpieces for us.

James Mayhew, Get Colouring With Katie

If you are a long-term fan of James’s, you will recognise these pictures. As you will if you are a regular in art galleries or paid attention at school.

Fifteen works of art where James has helped with lines and things to get you started. And I believe you want to be quite careful as you go, since this really is fine art, so no big, sweeping brush strokes, please.

With care, this book could keep you, or your child, quiet for most of the summer holidays. And, you could always see if you can go and visit some of the originals. See who did the better job.

I love Katie!

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!)

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.

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.

Katie’s London Christmas

I’ve had the most delicious pile of blue Christmas books lying waiting for my permission to read them coming through. It’s close enough to Christmas now, and I’m allowed, so here goes:

James Mayhew (yes, him again) has a new picture book out and this time Katie and Jack are at Grandma’s when Father Christmas sneezes by. His cold is hampering his up-and-down-the-chimneys speed, so the children go with him to help out.

James Mayhew, Katie's London Christmas

The pictures are lovely! They fly all over London, taking in the sights. (If you ask me, that seems like wasting even more time, when there are children needing their presents delivered.) And London is beautiful.

They visit small house and large houses, finishing with one of the largest in town, where the corgis are plentiful and asleep under a tree that is almost as nice as mine. Asleep until Father Christmas sneezes again, and they have rather a narrow escape.

This is obviously fantasy. Some things are just not real. I mean, snow – beautiful, clean, cold snow – in the middle of London! And, actually, Father Christmas looks quite a bit like James Mayhew…

Atchoo-oo-ooo.

James Mayhew at the Scottish National Gallery

Or was he?

Someone didn’t seem to think so. When I got to the foyer of the Scottish National Gallery on Thursday, I thought I’d save myself some time by not wandering aimlessly through the whole place, searching for the James Mayhew exhibition. I knew it was on (until 1st March), and I’d read the press release and everything. But the greeter by the door had not heard of James and looked at me pityingly, as it was clear I’d come for the wrong thing. I insisted. She leafed through their current brochure, and when I saw Grandma on the back of Nessie, in the doorway of the gallery, I stabbed my finger at the picture and said ‘that’s what I mean.’ ‘Oh, that one,’ she said. She knew where it was. (Garden level, next to the café, the shop and the toilets. Very convenient.)

It was lovely! Small, but perfect.

There were framed illustrations from several of James’s books, and they had his real sketchbooks on display, to show us how a book is born. Seems there is a lot more work than just sitting down to draw pretty pictures. Very interesting, very professional.

James Mayhew - dummy book 1985 slide 2

I’m the type of gallery visitor who tends to avoid the video shows, but in this case I was happy to make an exception, even wearing headphones and sitting down to my ten minutes with James.

He paints upside down. That’s so clever. He had been filmed talking to a group of children, and he drew as he talked, making it the right way round for his audience. It was some tall story about his Uncle Henry and the pirates from Treasure Island. As if that could be real! And who’s to say that the real shark’s lens he had in a box was a real shark’s lens..? Hmm?

They have a reading corner, with a couple of nice rattan chairs and samples of James’s books to read.

I went and had some tea in the café, and then I returned to look at the exhibition once more.

A James Mayhew van Gogh, with Katie

You know, were it not for a distinct lack of wall space, I could see myself having a real Mayhew van Gogh or Turner (or Monet or Renoir) on my wall at Bookwitch Towers. Anyone who believes that picture book illustrators are merely people who can do passable and childish pictures of small children and dinosaurs, need to get better acquainted with James Mayhew (yes, he does exist) and his books. He’s proof that you need to be a pretty capable all-rounder in order to make those ‘simple little illustrations’ in children’s books.

(Naughty Saint George! Forgetting everything for Mona Lisa…)

Katie in Scotland

Cabers were tossed. Also, there’s a most capable Grandma (as they should be), there’s Nessie, beautiful scenery, an efficient and helpful train crew. In short, James Mayhew’s Katie in Scotland has all you could want from a picture book about Scotland.

I don’t know why I’ve never investigated James’s books before. I suspect I might be an idiot. This is a truly lovely picture book, and one for which there is absolutely no need to be a child to enjoy.

James Mayhew, Katie in Scotland

It begins with Grandma, who takes Katie and her brother Jack to see Nessie. I mean, to see Loch Ness. You just have to believe in Nessie, though, and there she is! And she wants to travel and see Edinburgh. So obviously they take her along on their trip and a train coach is organised for Nessie and they visit Glasgow and then it’s on to Edinburgh.

James Mayhew, Katie in Scotland

They look at the famous sights and before getting on the train home, they perform in Princes Street Gardens; a bit of caber tossing, Scottish dancing, kilts. The works. You know what to expect.

A good time is had by all, from Nessie to the readers of this book.

And if you’ve not been to Scotland before, you’ll want to go now. Find a Grandma who will take you.

James Mayhew, Katie in Scotland