Tag Archives: James Mayhew

Schools for Charlotte Square

It’s short and sweet, the schools programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘Making books more affordable’ is a good motto, I feel. May it be successful and reach the children who need it the most.

I know I shouldn’t read the programme and plan, but I can read it and think. Some of the authors on the schools list will be doing ‘normal’ events too. And there is always the perfecting my school appearance. One of these days it will work.

Last year someone I’d just met talked very enthusiastically about Jason Reynolds, whom I’d never heard of. Well, this American is coming over, for an event with Chris Priestley who has illustrated his book. That should be pretty special.

Clémentine Beauvais is someone else I’ve not seen before, and she will be appearing with Sarah Crossan, which will be good. James Mayhew I have always managed to miss, so I could perhaps undo that, and Melvin Burgess, whom I’ve seen a lot, is coming back after a break of a few years. Or did I merely miss him?

Ehsan Abdollahi and Delaram Ghanimifard

Ehsan Abdollahi will return, which pleases me, and he’s appearing with Eloise Greenfield. I’ve not seen Beverley Naidoo for years, and I don’t know her events partner Marjan Vafaeian at all, which I hope can be remedied.

I will quickly tiptoe past the ‘star attraction’ on the Thursday morning, to mention that the last day will be special as always, with people like Theresa Breslin and Philip Ardagh and lots of other fun.

As you can tell, many school children will have some great events to look forward to. I’m always in awe of the school groups who get up before dawn cracks, to travel across Scotland to come to one of the events. Hopefully it will be a memory for life, and be the beginning of a bookish future for some.

Making art

Oh how I wish books like these had existed when I was the right age!

The Artist in You, by Julie Brunelle and Peter Wood, is perfect on more than one count. First they show you some famous, but still gorgeous, works of art, from pop art to old masters. They talk you through what you are seeing, which means that you learn about the paintings, and the painters, and facts about painting. (And then I want to rip the pages out to stick on my poor walls again.)

Julie Brunelle and Peter Wood, The Artist in You

Julie and Peter then show you how to achieve art like this, a sort of ‘do this at home.’ I’d have loved that – although most likely it would have been frustrating – and I am sure there are many hopeful young artists who will want to have a go.

Then we have two books by James Mayhew, for slightly younger artists. In Learn to Draw with Katie, James also shows his readers how to copy the great masters, and in this case he helps a bit, by having provided simple drawings to ‘colour in.’

James Mayhew, Learn to Draw with Katie

And in Discover Art with Katie, we have stickers! I love stickers, and I know I’m not alone in this. I have just about managed not having a go myself, ‘improving’ a few of the classic paintings we all know. Described as an activity book, there are puzzles and word-searches as well.

So, three fun books about art, and how to do it yourself.

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

Christmas beans

The trainee witch once (almost twice) worked in a bookshop in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This was in the days of Christmas Eve getting the Saturday treatment, shop hour wise. So we closed at twelve, and I recall I had a Saturday bus to catch soon after, where I was the only passenger, on the last bus for a couple of days.

Where was I? Oh yes, in the bookshop, before the last bus. It was quite nice working on Christmas Eve (well, one had a Mother-of-witch doing the kitchen stuff at home…), and something I noticed was that the world is full of people who don’t shop until there are mere hours between the buying of and the opening of presents. It takes a cool and steady mind to be that late.

They come in and spend anything, just to get the deed done. And obviously they require wrapping and all that.

According to Son it seems the wellknown online bookshop can offer the same these days, as long as you live somewhere civilised. Order on Christmas Eve morning and have it delivered that afternoon. It will cost you, but as I said, the Christmas Eve shopper can afford it.

What I’m trying to say here, in a roundabout and waffley way is that you could still manage to buy Magic Beans. I’m truly sorry for being so late mentioning this perfect Christmas book, but I’ve been feeding the cake brandy. And various other minor things.

In Magic Beans you have absolutely the cream of children’s authors doing their thing with classic fairy tales. Adèle Geras retells the The Six Swan Brothers. It’s wonderful with such sibling love. But I wonder what happened to the old King and his witchy wife? It’s funny how Princes and Kings wander around finding themselves wives all over the place.

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Henrietta Branford before. Here she retells Hansel and Gretel, without too much gruesomeness. And why do witches and stepmothers get bad press all the time? Berlie Doherty’s The Snow Queen is icy and season appropriate. And below you can listen to Jacqueline Wilson talking about Rapunzel.

Other particpating authors are Anne Fine, Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Kit Wright, Alan Garner, Gillian Cross, Susan Gates, Malorie Blackman, Linda Newbery and Tony Mitton. And since it’s not only writers you get, every single fairy tale has been illustrated by some pretty creamy artists like Debi Gliori, Ian Beck, Lesley Harker, Nick Sharratt, Patrice Aggs, Peter Bailey, Nick Maland, James Mayhew, Siận Bailey, Ted Dewan, Michael Foreman, Sue Heap and Bee Willey.

By good fortune I have also just found out that some of these stories can be bought as ebooks, so if you’re really desperate…

Don’t say I haven’t provided a useful suggestion. And if you were to go for the old-fashioned dead tree version you get a nice, fat volume with pictures. I’ll even wrap it for you. If you come here, that is.