These are a few of my favourite (picture book) things

 I am doing Nina Rycroft's online Children's Picture Book Illustration Course.
One of my first tasks is to share my favourite picture book -well I can't do that! Even with this selection there are books calling to me that are not included in this selection. In particular a Cinderella re-telling which has amazing woodcut style illustrations - not twee, certainly not pretty but very striking.
I've included books from my own childhood, books that I loved sharing with my children and one or two that I bought to share with classes I meet on my supply teaching days.
The Blackberry farm books! Adorable stories of  life on the farm. It's just occured to me that it's like the utopian version of Animal Farm!
The animals go to school, have sports days, help each other out and the illustrations bring the words to life perfectly. How I wished I was one of Henrietta's piglets rolling around, or as nimble as Mrs Squirrel's daughter Hazel.
Watercolour and line, delicate but intense colours.

Clear, simple, bold. What's not to love in Dick Bruna's illustrations. He zooms in on less than half the wolf's face on one page and another see him peeking from behind the house. So much drama and emotion in so few lines. Genius.
I learned to read with this book.

Eric Carle's textured painted papers have inspired many artists and school projects. Deceptively easy and very effective. Practicing this in the past helped me to become confident with paint.

Jan Pienkowski is the first illustrator whose name recognised before that of the author. His Christmas and Easter books are stunning, but this is the book I fell in love with. It's falling apart and so I have bought a new copy (not a replacement, it's an addition).
The silhouettes have always fascinated me, and combined with the bright and playful watercolours make a magical world.
Story telling, as we tell the children, should be a case of 'show not tell' and the should perhaps be true of illustrations. Clues, hidden things to search for add to the engagement of the reader - and with no details of her face, anyone reading this can more easily put themselves into the main character's life. I know I did (still do!).

John Burningham - what an absolute hero of mine!
I have a poetry book he's illustrated. It's full of what look likes messy chaotic colour but from that comes emotion, movement and energy - completing the story telling. The little robin 'tucking his under his wing, poor thing' is etched in my memory.
This story, I came across in a school I was visiting and loved it so much I had to buy it. I didn't notice at first it was John Burningham, but then it made sense as to why I'd felt so at home with it.
Simple line drawings with a little wash for the small illos and big blasts of colour and detail in the fill pages balance beautifully; and yet he uses negative space brilliantly. How bold in that yellow page to put so little in it.
I assume this is acryllics and ink. The textures really appeal to me too.

I like this classic for much the same reasons as John Burningham's work. Big pages of colour interspersed with simple, almost doodled, line drawings, using only a limited palette.
Like a common reaction to modern art: 'I could have done that'
to which the response is: 'but you didn't'
Deceptively simple, those seemingly simple drawings say so much.

Three little owls, their faces can't move much and yet there is never doubt about their feelings.
The palette is great and I admire the detailed line work with the pen over the colour. 

The Ahlbergs are incredible story tellers and almost custodians of our history and tales. The words tell a simple story and the illustrations are rich in showing us the detail of life for ordinary people in WW2, while retaining humour and vitality - a much better teaching tool and insight than 'proper' history books could offer - and all above and beyind the advertised premise of the book.. I've used this story in school with 10 and 11 year olds to compare life now and then.

These illustrations, in my opinion, don't work nearly as well in colour as they do in black and white. I love the bold wood / lino cut effect that encompasses each of the stories so effectively. This isn't a picture book, but I've included it as the illustrations made a huge impact on me, and how I enjoyed the stories, as a child.

I bought this for my children because I loved Richard Scarry's alphabet book with a passion when I was a child. Wonderful characters, all clearly the species they are supposed to represent, all with their own characters - no need to keep to normal scale and proportion with hens bigger than bears, it seems, but still believable.
I need to look again at how his collection of animals look like a collection - I think it starts with the eyes and the mouths

This was bought for me at Christmas last year. What is not to like here? One page leads to the next with it's visual hints, the blocks of colour with all those fabulous patterns creating texture and interest. It's a great story too even though Rosie has no idea of any of the drama!

Another book that's not a picture book but has incredible illustrations. As a child, I could not comprehend how this kind of drawing was physically possible. Such detail and consistency in the technique - and again, no colour to detract from the magical atmosphere.

A good example of how illustration is used to add drama and atmosphere to a story - and leads the story. The words cannot work without the pictures (and the peek-a-boo flaps are crucial to the drama)
Illustrator and author must have worked very closely.
Love the loose watercolours and extreme perspectives - from below and from above, putting us right in the action.
What strikes me is how much the illustration is part of all these stories and yet, in many cases, the illustrator's name is missing from the front cover. This is much better in the more modern books - in some of my older books the illlustrator's name is almost hidden inside. Good to see that it's changing.


  1. Lovely list! I bought 4 Peepo books when I was visiting London. Now my children, a nephew and a grand-niece enjoy them:)


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