William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Williard

“William Blake’s Inn – Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travellers” written by Nancy Willliard and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen is simply charming.  It is an homage to William Blake in words and images.  Nancy Williard’s poems remind me more of Ogden Nash than Blake, but they share Blake’s fantastical imagery.  The Inn is inhabited by dragons, angels, bears and the King of Cats, no less:

The tiger is a recurring motif, for obvious reasons.  Just look at this mischievous beast:


The mice far from home: Lliane Roels

Here are some pictures from a book I’ve known since childhood – “Bij de dieren thuis: De Muizen”  which translates to roughly to “At home with the animals: The Mice”.  It’s a small book with a simple theme – some mice travel the world to find out how other mice live.

It starts off with our hero, a mouse called Lodewijk, who lives with his family in the ideal mouse home, inside a rocking horse in an attic.  Of course, Lodewijk is not satisfied with his happy life and goes off on an adventure.  First, he rescues Lili, a white mouse from a laboratory:

Liane Roel’s illustrations are enchanting: every detail is considered, every shape exact.
Lodewijk and Lili travel the world and find out how other mice live.  They find that the country mice have a beautiful home, but some frightening enemies:


Switch on the Night by Leo and Diane Dillon

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – (and no, I’m only halfway with colouring in the “Unexpected Tea Party drawing that I posted about last time!)

In any case, I wanted to share an illustrated children’s book I found in a second hand bookshop yesterday.  It is called “Switch on the Night”, is written by Ray Bradbury, and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon who I also wrote about in this post.

The story is about  a boy who is afraid of the dark.  He does his best to light up every room he is in:

Notice the Escher-like distortions of perspective.  Here is another image, showing his parents walking through the house, switching off the lights:


Wasteground Circus by Charles Keeping

Here is a Charles Keeping book that I’ve never heard of before – “Wasteground Circus”.

It is about two boys, Scott and Wayne, who like to play in an abandoned wasteground.  One day, they see a circus setting up in the wasteground:

These images are details  cropped out of larger images.  Here you can see the boys buying tickets from a marvelous tattooed circus man: More

The Mouse Bride illustrated by Lesley Liu

Another wonderful find from the Wynberg children’s library – “The Mouse Bride” written by Monica Chang and illustrated by Lesley Liu.  I had a hard time choosing which images to scan for this one – they are all crammed with fascinating details.

“The Mouse Bride” is a story about some mice who live in a hole in the bottom of a wall.  Notice all wonderful details. In many of the pictures, you can see a small child watching everything:

Here are some details from that image, showing the mouse village: More

The Firebird by Luděk Maňásek

Another treasure discovered in a second-hand bookshop:  The Firebird illustrated by Luděk Maňásek.    I could find out very little about him apart from the fact that he studied in Prague. I guess these must be lithographs.  The lines are soft and delicate,  almost furry:

The hero, Prince Ivan setting out on his quest to find the Princess Vasilissa. More

The Enchanter’s Daughter – Errol Le Cain and Antonia Barber

I found another book by Errol le Cain, an illustrator I’ve loved since I was a little girl.  It is mine for only a week or two, as I found it in the children’s library in Wynberg.  I will be sad to let it go, but took the chance to scan it:

“The Enchanter’s Daughter” was written by Antonia Barber.  The story is quite unusual, as fairy tales go. It is a story of a princess searching – not for the love of a prince, but for her mother.  Here is the nameless princess – who is quite unaware that she is beautiful: More

The Emperor and the Nightingale: Meilo So

My second hand bookshop luck is still holding – I found  “The Emperor and the Nightingale” by Meilo So.  She is an illustrator I have not come across before (there is a link to an interview with her at the end of the post). The story is familiar, but Meilo’s wonderful loose style and unexpected colours make it all fresh and lively again.

The story is of an Emperor who has everything he desires –  travellers visit his castle simply in order to marvel at the beautiful architecture, the priceless artworks, the lovely gardens.  I could choose only a few images from the book, as usual: More

Fiddles, Elephants and The Blue Danube: Victor Ambrus

I found this Victor Ambrus in a second hand shop.  I love Ambrus’s hairy, splodgy style.  This one is a story about a little boy whose grandfather gives him a fiddle and teaches him to play the “Blue Danube” – so of course, he runs off to join the circus:

The ringmaster is not impressed with him, but allows him to join as an odd jobs boy, who has to wash the bear and the elephant: More

Mr Tonktonkie and his friends – Józef Wilkon and Ursula Valentin

This post about Józef Wilkon at the wonderful animalarium blog reminded me of another one of my favourite children’s books.   I got it out of my shelf, and here it is “Oom Tonktonkie en sy maats” – roughly translated as “Mr Tonktonkie and his friends.”  Written by Ursula Valentin and illustrated by Józef Wilkon.

It’s a sweet story about a lonely old man – Oom Tonktonkie – and his love for the wild birds in his neighbourhood.   The illustrations are delicate ink washes in muted colours: More

Miss Fanshaw – by Sue Scullard

Miss Fanshaw and the Great Dragon Adventure – written and illustrated by Sue Scullard –  is the opposite of a pop-up book – it’s a “pop through” book.

It satisfies on several levels.   An unusual heroine, sumptuously detailed drawings and clever “reveals” created by holes cut in the pages. These holes are part of the plot, as you shall see in the examples below.


Solomon’s Secret – Helen Cooper

Some books have such a strong sense of place.  Solomon’s Secret, written by Saviour Pirotta and illustrated by Helen Cooper, is one.

It is set in a rather downtrodden neighbourhood.  Everything is a little bit worn and dingy.  But there is  magic behind the everyday exterior.  We meet Solomon, and learn about his extraordinary secret:

Solomon is a little scared of his neighbours, the mysterious Mr and Mrs Zee.  There are all kinds of scary stories about them, and the neighbourhood kids like to throw stones at their door: More

A wart snake in a fig tree!

Tired of “Partridge in a Pear Tree” already?  George Mendoza and Etiene Delessert have an alternative – A “Wart Snake in a Fig Tree”.

This little book takes the words of that dreary Christmas song and makes you want to sing it all over again.  Its illustrated by Etiene Delessert.  I first got to know Delessert’s illustrations when I was a child reading Ionesko’s  remarkable “Story Number One” – sadly that book is lost.  Or maybe one of my siblings has it?

Here is the fist one –  “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…A Wart Snake in a Fig Tree!”: More

The Little Prince and the Tiger Cat – Mischa Damjan & Ralph Steadman

Some more cute cat illustration.  This time its from “The Little Prince and the Tiger Cat” written by Mischa Damjan and illustrated by Ralph Steadman.


This is rather a change for “gonzo artist” Ralph Steaman, better known for his work with Hunter S Thompson, producing images like this:


The story is set many years ago in Japan, when the Japanese first came into contact with cats.  They had heard that cats were very good at getting rid of mice, but were not clear on how this worked.  More

Folded Seasons by John Burningham

I promised to take some photographs of the folded out pages from my copy of John Burningham’s Seasons.


I did – and in the process discovered that Summer is missing.  It must have got torn at some stage, and slipped out of the book and got lost.

Before I get to the fold outs, here is a double page spread of a page from the “summer” section of the book, to give you an idea of how the pictures flow across the pages. More

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