Tag Archives: Tony Ross

The Nights Before Christmas

This gorgeous, large volume of collected Christmas classics, illustrated by Tony Ross, contains 24 stories, poems and extracts from wellknown books. As anyone can work out from that – apart from me, initially – you have one thing to read for every night through December. In other words; the best kind of advent calendar.

Tony Ross, The Nights Before Christmas

There’s material you will already know, and hopefully brand new reads as well. I used to read The Little Match-Seller over and over as a child. It’s so very sad. And then there are things I didn’t know at all, like the fact that Christina Rossetti wrote In the Bleak Midwinter. That was a revelation.

You get extracts from Little Women and A Christmas Carol, and there are many tales about Christmas trees in various forms, and shoemakers seem to be big, too. The Bible and the hymn book both feature, as do Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.

I believe I always say this about anthologies and collections, but I do hope it will lead today’s children to investigate some of the classics. There is more to Christmas than farting santas. This is a beautiful book, suitably ‘modernised’ by Tony’s pictures.

Next year I will begin reading on December 1st and I will enjoy every step of the way.

Whose illustrator?

I spoke to Thumper’s mum again. I realised I wasn’t quite done being unkind.

The thing is, one of the press releases I received for a recent book, mentioned David Walliams’ illustrator. Perhaps you are more aware than I am, who that actually might be, and are shouting out his name as you read this. But I was taken aback at the description. (I’m hoping it was a slip of the keyboard.)

The book was the new Horrid Henry, and Francesca Simon received the correct star billing as being a top-selling author. But guess what? The person who illustrated Horrid Henry (after all these years, 25 or some such number) is David Walliams’ illustrator! I wouldn’t know DW if he sat opposite me on the train, and even if this person was a rookie illustrator who had only made pretty pictures for a few books, I’d still expect him to be properly introduced, by his own name.

Especially since he is Tony Ross; one of the leading children’s books illustrators, and someone whose work is instantly recognisable. Tony does pretty pictures for many authors, and he also does them for himself, when he is the author as well as the illustrator. I always make a point of reading and reviewing his work if I can, because I know it will be good stuff.

Tony Ross and Wendy Finney, The Not So Little Princess

Like this one, The Not So Little Princess, What’s My Name? where the words are by Wendy Finney (they are good words, too), but you find that Tony’s name is mentioned first, and with no DW in sight. (OK, so it’s by a different publisher.) It’s as funny and lovely as all the other Little Princess books have been before it.

As you will have guessed, the Little Princess has got bigger. These things happen. And her family and ‘servants’ realise she can no longer be addressed as Little Princess. But when they recall what her real name is, they all turn a wobbly and run away, hoping they won’t be called upon to be the one who has to tell her.

Just as silly and amusing as you’d expect. And the LP is a sensible girl, deep down, and she solves the name problem herself and everyone is happy.

I wonder if there will be more Big Princess books?

Tony Ross

THAT is Tony Ross, above. In case you are ever called upon to sit opposite him on a train.

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.

Choosing Crumble

I found myself wanting a little hidey-hole under my stairs where I could place a dog’s basket. And that is so bad. I neither want nor need a dog, but Michael Rosen’s Choosing Crumble was most persuasive. Or was it the pictures by Tony Ross?

Michael Rosen and Tony Ross, Choosing Crumble

Here is everything you need to know about getting a dog. If the dog will let you, that is. Crumble is an unusual dog. He interviews his prospective owner, who in this case is Terri-Lee. She goes to the pet shop with her Mum, and soon finds herself answering questions.

Crumble wants home made food. He likes being tickled. He doesn’t want fifty words when one or two will do. He is a boy and will certainly not be called Lassie.

He chews. It’s what dogs do.

Terri-Lee is determined to have him. It’s what little girls are like.

Choosing Crumble is an adorable little book, easy to read on your own, or to have someone read with you. If you didn’t want a dog before, you’ll want one after. Even if they chew.

Stockport Schools Book Award 2013

Authors simply don’t look like they’re meant to! You google them and know ‘exactly’ who to look for and…

Great minds think alike. The only difference being that the representative from Stockport Library Services had printed out his cheat sheet of author photos to help him recognise the award winning authors he was at my neighbourhood hotel to greet, while I had tried to memorise people’s faces.

In the end we did equally well, I’d say. We even recognised each other.

Stockport Librarian and Jeanne Willis

Jeanne Willis

I obviously know what Jeanne Willis looks like; the glammest girl in the children’s books world. She also knows what I look like, but I will spare you a description.

She was the first one down, and it was purely because the bar made for a nice shiny background that I photographed her there. Jeanne has never set foot in a bar before Wednesday evening. And what a foot! I mean; what an ankle bracelet!

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Hippospotamus

Tony Ross

Tony Ross

Jeanne won the KS1 award with Tony Ross for their picture book Hippospotamus, and just to be fair, I allowed Tony to flash his shoe and calf as well, although it wasn’t quite as exciting as when Jeanne did it. Although Tony looked most debonair. The upper half, I mean. (Note the halo.)

Adrian Reynolds & Thomas Taylor, The Pets You Get!

Thomas Taylor was next to show up, and he won the Early Years award with Adrian Reynolds for The Pets You Get! I found this a little confusing, since Thomas is an illustrator,* but it seems he has written the words this time and Adrian did the illustrations.

Thomas Taylor and Matt Dickinson

With so much handshaking going on, Matt Dickinson appeared, brandishing a hand after hiding in a corner somewhere. He was freshly arrived from Spain, so Stockport might have seemed like a bit of a letdown. Unseasonably warm, but not that warm. Matt is the author of Mortal Chaos, which won him the KS3 award.

Matt Dickinson, Mortal Chaos

Someone who was in town, but not at the hotel, unfortunately, was Christopher Edge, who wrote the KS2 winning book Twelve Minutes to Midnight. (So, no picture.)

Christopher Edge, Twelve Minutes to Midnight

Apparently the unspoken theme for the evening was the Oscars. I can believe that. Jeanne Willis in black and diamonds looked every centimetre the part. And then Katie Dale walked in, looking more like a fairy princess than any author I’ve ever seen (and I’ve met a few by now). It was definitely a Wow! kind of moment.

Katie Dale

Katie won the KS4 award for Someone Else’s Life, and I suspect the sight of That Dress could have rendered hordes of her fans speechless. Or perhaps they merely screamed.

Katie Dale, Someone Else's Life

If you are thinking that I am being shallow, going on about clothes, then you are quite correct. Reading is important, and the children of Stockport have read and voted. But there comes a time when glitter and glamour rule. Like Wednesday night at The Plaza.

For more down to earth-ness we discussed the difficulty of leaving Clacton (now that I’ve been warned, I will never go), and as the time came for the assembled beauties to leave for the award ceremony, there was a major taxi fail. None of the pre-booked pumpkins turned up, so wands had to be waved again, and again, before a successful leaving could be executed. (Katie’s dress obviously needed a whole backseat of its own…)

Katie Dale and handsome escort

And you know, after last week’s income reveal, and the number of authors who pay to go to awards, I had forgotten one aspect. Just think of the money spent on dazzling the fans with outfits like these! Utterly selfless.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

*If you think you don’t know Thomas or his work; think again. He’s responsible for the image on the right. A few of us will have seen it somewhere, despite it being the cover of a first novel by someone totally unknown.

(It’s my favourite of the HPs. I hadn’t realised they were done by different people. Now I know.)

A dratted cat and a best baby

They can be a pain; babies. And cats. I mean, who’d want them?

Tony Ross, Drat That Cat!

Tony Ross has a new picture book – Drat That Cat! – about a difficult cat. Suzy Cat likes being naughty. She jumps on Granddad and does something unspeakable in Dad’s golf bag. She does things all the time that no one in the family likes.

Then she goes off her food and has to go to the cat hospital. The family all miss Suzy. When she returns home they let her get away with almost anything.

That’s what Suzy had counted on.

: )

Babies are less hairy than cats, but otherwise just about as annoying. In The Best, Best Baby by Anthea Simmons, with adorable baby illustrations by Georgie Birkett, we see what it’s like to suddenly have a little brother. There’s so much they can’t do!

Georgie Birkett and Anthea Simmons, The Best, Best Baby

There’s so much they can do, that you’d rather they didn’t.

But actually, a baby brother isn’t such a bad thing to have after all.