Tag Archives: Jeanne Willis

Picture this

My Photographer – aka Daughter – was here over Easter. This meant I could take her to do the honours at Lari Don’s event, leaving me not only with free hands to take notes, but with some much better photos than I can take.

Once upon a time I had her services, if not always, then quite often. She was even prevailed upon to pop back home from school for half an hour if I had an author interview in the house. It was very handy, and I hope not too cruel.

We made our Edinburgh bookfest debut soon after her GCSEs, with a new, proper camera and everything. The press photographers might have found it strange to share turf with a teenager on her school holidays, but they could learn a thing or two from her, I reckon. Because she took pictures of authors the professionals didn’t. By that I mean mostly children’s authors, but also others of ‘lesser’ interest.

In fact, what the professionals do is wait to be offered people, a bit like when children wait for an adult to give them their tea. Whereas we ended up sticking our noses into every larder and fridge we came across, to keep the meal metaphor going.

Last week I asked if she’d seen the ad on facebook for an author event, where they had used her photo. And yes, she did see that. They’ve paid for it, so can use it for anything they like. It’s one that the author particularly liked. That one came from an official photo shoot, but there have been others that have pleased the subject enough to want to buy the rights. And that’s because we’ve been everywhere, and sooner and later you just catch the right look, especially since they don’t know they are posing.

The sales have been priced somewhere between professional fees and giving them away; enough for a schoolgirl to pay for the lens sold her by another author. When the author pays, a cheque is likely to turn up soon. When the publishers pay you tend to have to send quite a few reminders.

One author who just happened to be snapped by my Photographer in the official photo shoot area and thereby got caught by the professionals as well, was later offered to buy a series of shots by one of them. It was illuminating how much he asked for. Unfortunately for him, this author had already been permitted to use Daughter’s pictures. Besides, I suspect the money wasn’t there. Several years on, it was satisfying to find one of those photos in a press release I received last week.

The difficulty has never been finding authors to take pictures of. It’s mainly been a case of coming up with somewhere to do impromptu, more private, photo shoots of our own.

Jeanne Willis

We know who we like. And that’s not generally the latest Nobel prize laureate or Booker winner, but someone much more important. Someone who writes for children. Someone who gets them reading.

I just wish adulthood didn’t deprive me of this wonderful service. The Photographer’s, I mean. I’ll never be adult.

Troll Stinks

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Troll Stinks

It looks like Jeanne Willis has her heart set on educating young readers, and what better way than through poetry and catchy illustrations?

This time Jeanne and Tony Ross are tackling cyberbullying, and high time, too. (It ends better than Chicken Clicking, in case you’re worried…)

Jeanne rhymes her way through a different version of the Billy Goats Gruff, where a young silly Billy  finds a mobile phone and decides to get up to no good with it, along with his friend. They take selfies and send horrible text messages to Troll.

And then they go off to visit Troll. Aren’t they brave?

Well, no, they are bullies. The thing is, just as goats – maybe – have the right to cross bridges; perhaps trolls are entitled to try and prevent them?

Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

Lucinda Belinda Melinda looks really nice, but that’s all that’s nice about her. This perfect girl in Jeanne Willis’s new picture book, illustrated by Tony Ross, is pretty dreadful. She knows how to look good, and she not only tells everyone else how to improve, but she goes right ahead and improves them.

People hide when they see her coming. Lucinda Belinda Melinda even has a go at her poor grandparents, who are not well-groomed enough. And she blow-dries the monster she meets in the park.

Well, she shouldn’t have done that…

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool

This is poetry. I really wanted to read the book aloud, but as usual was missing that child who would have loved it. Not sure the Resident IT Consultant wanted Lucinda Belinda Melinda to intrude on his history programme on television. But it just rhymes so very nicely!

And yes, my bottom does look big in those shorts.

Jeanne Willis, butter and how to draw a cow

While we’re in a farmyard mood, I was quite pleased to find the two page advert for butter in the Guardian Weekend the other weekend. Surprised, but pleased, because it featured a large photo of Bookwitch favourite Jeanne Willis.

Jeanne Willis

It left me slightly confused at first, but I gather Jeanne has written a buttery sort of children’s book about some Friesian dairy cows, called The Tale of City Sue, which most likely isn’t going to pop up in ordinary bookshops, and I don’t actually know how or where you get hold of a copy, but I do hope it ends up in the hands of many children.

Perhaps if their parents buy the right kind of butter.

It’s been illustrated by Dermot Flynn, and he offers a short lesson on how to draw a cow. I feel even I could now draw a passable cow if I needed to.

The question I am left with is whether it’s all right to write a book for advertising purposes. I think it probably is. Just the other day I was reminded of the Weetabix atlas (simply because there is still a copy of it in Mother-of-witch’s bookcase), which was pretty good. Offspring must have been at the right atlasy stage when it was available to people who ate plenty of Weetabix. We had so many tokens to use (we saved them when there was nothing we wanted, and then used them all when there was something good to order) that we got a pile of atlases for school as well.

I think what I’m saying here is that Offspring did ‘read’ that atlas a lot, and that any book that comes to a reader and is appreciated is good, even if you do have to eat Weetabix, or butter. In our case it’s not even as though we didn’t buy books, but we felt it was a good offer.

So if I could just lay my hands on The Tale of City Sue, to read about this close-knit sisterhood of dairy cows…

Blue and yellow

Feeling quite inspired by two colourful picture books in nicely Swedish colours.

Bluebird by Bob Staake is a rather special book. Longer than average and wordless, it still tells a marvellous story. The illustrations are something else, and all in tones of blues and neutrals. I’d happily frame a page and put on my wall.

Bob Staake, Bluebird

Set in New York, by the look of things, it tells the story of a lonely boy, who is befriended by a small bird. There is bullying and a sad, but beautiful ending. Wonderful to look at, and if you can adapt your own words to your own child it should suit almost everybody.

In Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, we meet another little bird in this tremendously yellow book. The chicken pops into the farmhouse to use the farmer’s computer every night. She buys things, thus confusing the poor farmer.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Chicken Clicking

And then, then she makes an online friend. This is a cautionary tale about online safety. You just never know who will pretend to be your friend. Do you?

This chicken finds out…

Long and narrow

Three picture books, all about animals who are long and narrow.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Boa's Bad Birthday

It’s poor Boa’s birthday and all he wants is a nice present or two. But can he play the piano? No. Or wear mittens? Sunglasses? It’s the thought that counts, according to his mum. But he’s still disappointed. Until one friend gives him something… Boa’s Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross is as enjoyable as you’d expect. Jeanne knows how to convey feelings with just a few words. And a boa with tears in his eyes? Well.

Sofie Laguna and Craig Smith, Where Are You, Banana?

In Where Are You, Banana? Roddy somehow loses his dog called Banana (dachshund, I’d say). The family look everywhere, but no Banana. Not until Roddy hears a noise and looks more closely so he can see where Banana has disappeared. How to get Banana back, though? Lovely story by Sofie Laguna, and great illustrations by Craig Smith, which convey a boy’s love for what is actually a fairly ugly dog.

Dianne Hofmeyr and Jane Ray, Zeraffa Giraffa

Finally we have the true story of the giraffe in Africa who became a gift for the King of France. The book follows Zeraffa’s journey from Egypt to Paris, a trip where everyone comes to see this strange animal as it passes through. They all love Zeraffa, and none more than the Princess in Paris. And on warm evenings, if he looked south, Zeraffa could almost imagine himself back in Egypt.

Rather sad, really, and so strange you would barely believe it actually happened. Exotic illustrations by Jane Ray accompany Dianne Hofmeyr’s words.

Families are where people love you

Jeanne Willis, ably assisted with lovely illustrations by Adrian Reynolds, mixes her families up in Upside Down Babies. Somehow the baby animals end up with the ‘wrong’ mummies, but that works, too. In some cases, anyway.

And then the world is put right again, even if some mums actually hang on to their ‘wrong’ babies. Very sweet, for all of us who have worried about separation.

Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds, Upside Down Babies

So, you’re different. Doesn’t mean you don’t belong, as very big mouse Enormouse finds out in Angie Morgan’s book. The others appear to be poking fun at him for his size, so he leaves to go and find the rats, who look just like him.

But the rats aren’t like him, and Enormouse decides to ‘go home’ again, where he has been badly missed. Home is where you belong, whatever your shape.

Angie Morgan, Enormouse

That could be in two homes, as Baby Bird finds in Two Nests by Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone. His parents fall in love, and Baby Bird is born and everything is fine.

No it’s not. Things get bad, until his parents do the sensible thing and build a second nest on another branch. Baby Bird has two homes, and two parents who love him.

Laurence Anholt and Jim Coplestone, Two Nests

Counting how much you love your Little Bear becomes hard work for Dad. Little Bear can’t sleep, because he needs to know his Dad loves him more than… They go on and on until Dad falls asleep. And suddenly Little Bear finds he can sleep as well. I Love You Too! is a sweet bedtime story by Michael Foreman. It’s as if you can’t ever have too many bedtime books. Especially about bears.

Michael Foreman, I Love You Too!

Ros Asquith is spot on – as always – in her It’s Not Fairy. The It’s Not Fairy has a hard job sorting everyone out. That’s everyone who moans and says ‘It’s Not Fair!’ and they needn’t be just children. Parents are as bad. Children squabble over ice cream treats, and parents disagree on who works the hardest.

Well, that would be the It’s Not Fairy. Eventually she falls into her own trap, because she just has so much to do.

Ros Asquith, It's Not Fairy