The circle of death and life illustrated by Spirin

What makes a good subject for a children’s picture book?  I see so many similar books on the bookshop shelves.  Clear happy pictures, short happy stories.  “Once There Was a Tree”, written by Natalia Romanova and illustrated by Gennady Spirin,  could not be more different.  As a foretaste, here is a page number:

You can read more about Spirin at this page. He is described as being “like a magician, using his paint brush as a wand.” I hope these scans of the books do justice to his work.  I was once lucky enough to see an exhibition of his original paintings.  They are breathtaking. More

Molly Bang’s Paper Crane: Joyful and Profound.

Dont you just love an excuse to sort through your book collections? To be paging through old battered survivors of childhood, as well as look at new discoveries. For me, one such new discovery is “the Paper Crane ” by Molly Bang. This little book is perfect. I love the freshness of the storytelling, the sensitivity and beauty of the artwork, and the quiet joy it radiates.

What could be a more satisfying medium for this story than to tell it in pictures made up of folded and cut paper and collage? More

Calling all grownup children: Swallows and Amazons for Ever!

Why is it that so many books that are loved in childhood are forgotten when we are grown? Many marvelous stories which are classified as “children’s books” are magical at any age. Of course there are children’s books that are the literary equivalent of coloured sugar popcorn – to be devoured by children, but heartburn inducing in adults. No – I’m talking about books that can be read and re-read at any age, and always gives you something more. One such an author is Athur Ransome, well known for his “Swallows and Amazons” stories.

He is another author who illustrates his own books. More

Errol Le Cain’s Sleeping Beauty: Rich and Magical

Isn’t it strange how some childhood moments stay with you so clearly, while most things fade into a half remembered muddle? It was just before Christmas, many years ago when I was just a little girl. My family were getting into the car to go home after a visit to the bookshop in Cape Town. My father was holding a brown paper packet. I tried to peep into it and caught a glimpse of two books, but my father whisked them away before I could get a proper look.


That packet re-appeared again under the Christmas tree, and contained Errol Le Cain’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. More

Arabian Magic with a Polish touch: The Illustrations of Janusz Grabianski

Did you also have books, as a child, that you read over and over again? The images become so familiar that you cannot imagine the story without them. This is, for me, the ultimate edition of The Arabian Nights. The text reworked by Hedwig Smola, translated into Afrikaans by Andre Brink and above all illustrated by Janusz Grabianski.

As a child I loved Grabianski’s vivid colours and strong brushwork – the storytelling in the pictures is just as lively as that in the text. Here you can see the first meeting of Aladdin with the evil magician, pretending to be his long lost uncle. More

Writer / Illustrator Mervyn Peake: Drawing a vivid darkness

Inevitably I have come to Mervyn Peake. Mervyn Peake! That name casts a shadow. Have you read Titus Groan, or Gormenghast? Did you realise he was well known as an illustrator for such classics as Alice in Wonderland, and Treasure Island?

If you have not read him yet, Mervyn Peake is the master of true, dark goth. His creations live below the page, he sculpts his characters and crosshatches them with words. No one else writes, or draws, like Mervyn Peake.


The haunting illustrations of Eva Bednarova: Chinese Fairly Tales.

Here is another fabulously illustrated book I would like to share with you: Dana and Milada Stovichkova’s “Chinese Fairy Tales” illustrated by Eva Bednarova. This is a treasure of a book.mirror_crop


Errol Le Cain’s Cinderella: A World of Beauty in the Detail

Here is a magical book for you to have a look at: Cinderella by Errol Le Cain. This process of sharing my favorite illustrators has helped me realise how profoundly they have influenced me . When I am asked what my influences are, I tend to think about serious fine artists. Audrey Beardsley maybe? But in all honesty, it is people like Errol Le Cain who have shaped the way I look at things.

I wish I could draw like Errol Le Cain! Here is Cinderella doing her embroidery under the watchful eye of her stepmother and stepsisters. More

A Darker Keeping: The Highwayman

Illustrator Charles Keeping had a dark side, always just beneath the surface of his work. Compare the work he did in “Joseph’s Yard” with “The Highwayman”, the famous poem by Alfred Noyes. The Highwayman is a satisfyingly Gothic love story of a highwayman and “Bess the landlords red lipped daughter”. You can read (or listen to) the poem here. The poem has a urgent rhythm that drives it along – its the kind of poem you feel compelled to read out loud:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


writer/illustrator Charles Keeping: Joseph’s Yard

Charles Keeping was a powerful force in my childhood. I was scared and fascinated by his books . The drawings burn on the page, and the stories cut into your heart. I was deeply influenced by his drawing style – that muscular scrawl with ink and wash. In this post I want to share one particular book: “Joseph’s Yard” which I grew up knowing as “Josef se plant”, in its Afrikaans version.


writer/illustrator Elizabeth Enright

Here is yet another children’s author who illustrated her own books.

Elizabeth Enright: the perfect writer for children. Her books create a world of utter joy, salted with enough realism to make it possible for you to link them to your own life.


Pauline Baynes

Since I am indulging myself by writing about my most loved children’s writers – and also illustrators – how can I miss out Pauline Baynes. Here is a really interesting interview with her, by Charlotte Cory.


from The Manhatten Rare Book Company


Philip Pullman- illustrations

I couldn’t very well write about Steve Augarde as author / illustrator and leave out Philip Pullman, who has written some of my favourite books: the “His Dark Materials” series.


Next Newer Entries