A PILE OF PICTURE BOOKS
Guest blog as written for ‘The Book Trust’ as part of Children’s Book Week.
I was thrilled to be invited to guest blog for the Booktrust’s Children’s Book Week. So a bit like Susan Hill in her wonderful book Howards End is on the Landing, I went around our home and collected all the picture books I had loved through the years; mine as a child; others we read to our own children; ones I had read to my Reception Class in Kent and now the newer series which I need to read as I embark on my latest career as a picture book author in 2013!
When I was growing up my father used to make up stories to tell my brother and me before we went to sleep. He also read fairy tales to us from Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm and Oscar Wilde. I adored Madeline in an old house in Paris that was covered in vines and where lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. And growing up in London in the 50’s and 60’s, Milly Molly Mandy and her escapades in a rural setting enchanted me. But my all time favourite character during my childhood and beyond must be Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. I still get a frisson of excitement when I think about that boycub taming again and again those wild things (pacem Maurice Sendak: your later masterpiece is but a moment in time) but I also remember travelling with Mowgli through the joys and sadness of leaving behind childish things.
As I view my pile of picture books on the kitchen table I see again Winnie the Pooh, Barbar the Elephant, Beatrix Potter, whose miniature illustrations in the glorious soft colours contrast so vividly with the Aesop’s Fables collection I read and reread as a child. And how can I ever forget A.A. Milne’s poetry in When We Were Very Young: ‘James James/Morrison Morrison/Weatherby George Dupree/Took great/Care of his Mother/Though he was only three’. Growing up in a musical family there was singing and nursery rhymes galore and my love of poetry and rhythm is always with me.
But I also deeply appreciate the changing world of illustration which make the modern picture books for children alive and endlessly rewarding. Through the years I have loved Jan Ormerod, Shirley Hughes’ darker imagery, Tony Ross, Jill Murphy (how could anyone not adore her All in One Piece which kept us laughing through the vagaries of early parenthood), Jill Barton’s The Pig in the Pond by Martin Waddell and the fantastic colours and lines of Quentin Blake.
Nowadays we have the spikier styles like Joe Berger who illustrates Tracey Corderoy’s Granny series and the quirky Sara Pinto books, all of which I enjoy. But my all time favourite sketch has to be from back in the old days. And my copy of When We Were very Young does not stray very far from my bedside to this day. Mary Jane will forever refuse to eat her lovely rice pudding and the ‘decorations’ by E.H. Shepard (in my birth year 1955 edition) conjure up to perfection the little girl having her highchair tantrum. Unlike Mowgli, this little person will never grow up!