The Friday Book Review: The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My.

Todays book is ‘The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My’. It is by Tove Jansson and published by Sort of Books. It is translated by Sophie Hannah with calligraphy by Peter Blegvad.

As a rule I don’t have a ‘thing’ about the Moomins. But this book is wonderful. It’s the kind of book I would love to do and is one of my absolute favourites.

First the story, it’s a simple tale of Moomintroll going to get some milk for his mother and the adventure he goes on on his journey home. The text is rhyming in a way that carries you through the book and is beautifully hand lettered/illustrated by Blegvad. The book features the usual Jansson characters; Moomintroll, Mymble, Fillyjonk, Hemulen etc.

I particularly like how at the end of each page is a line encouraging the reader to think ahead or turn the page

“..Chased them away like Dust and Mess-


The design is great, featuring cut throughs from one scene to the next, which add to the depth and the whole idea of looking forward to what is coming next. The illustrations are printed in three or four colours per page, in flat colours, with glimpses through the page adding an additional colour.

The text is usually in a box and so it gets its own chance to shine. The hand lettered text is drawn in a way that some words reflect their meaning, ( a calligram apparently!) and this just adds to the quirkiness of the book.

It’s definitely one to check out!

Images taken from this blog review.

The Friday Book Review: The Dunderheads.

Todays book is ‘The Dunderheads’ by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by the fabulous David Roberts, published by Walker Books.

You are in for a treat with this one! The book is 56 pages long and for the older age range of picture book readers. As it says on the back,

“Meet Miss Breakbone. She shouts, she confiscates, she makes kids cry..

Now meet the Dunderheads, an unlikely band of children with extraordinary hidden talents, about to teach Miss Breakbone a lesson she won’t forget!”

The writing is great, everything you’d expect from a story titled ‘The Dunderheads’ and more. The characters names are inspired (Spider, Hollywood, Wheels,Spitball-now what could his special talent be I wonder??) and the story works so well, unlikely heros getting their own back. It’s a quirky story, with bite.

The illustrations are fantastic,as always, from Roberts-can you tell I’m a fan? The pages are a mix of double page spreads, singles, and panels dividing the page up. The characterisation is brilliant and beautifully compliments the writing. The illustrations are done in ink line and watercolours.

I was particularly impressed with his characters outfits, and he draws a very nice carpet! The compositions are very strong, oh its just fantastic, check it out! And for those of you who love it, as I’m sure you all will, there’s a sequel..”The Dunderheads Behind Bars”. I won’t say anymore for now, just that it doesn’t disappoint!

The Friday Book Review: The Chicken Of The Family.

Today’s book is ‘The Chicken Of The Family‘, written by Mary Amato and illustrated by Delphine Durand. It is published by Putman books.

The story is about two sisters who tease their younger sister by telling her that she is actually a chicken!  They take the joke further by leaving feathers by her bed and an egg, that she has supposedly laid, in the bed. The little sister, Henrietta, believes them and leaves home to join a farm and live with other chickens.

It is illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators, which is why I bought the book in the first place, little realising what a treat the story would be. It is a longish story, so is a picture book for older children , though younger ones would enjoy it too.

The illustrations are painted (in acrylic I think?) and are a mixture of double page spreads, singles and vignettes dotted about. The painting style is quite flat, with patterns /texture added on top.  Durand has clearly had a lot of fun with this book and the details of toys in the girls bedrooms clearly reflect some of the creatures that Durand is so good at creating. I love the lushness of the farm scenes and the cheerfulness of Henrietta playing with the chickens. The expressions of the two older sisters getting exasperated with Henrietta are great and very funny.

In the dedications of the book Amato thanks her agent for telling her a family story, inspiring her to write this. The tone of the story beautifully captures the way kids (and particularly siblings) can be quite cruel, though far from being moralising, it is a very funny book.

On Amato’s website it says that there is also a theatre script of the book and a musical- the chicken costume looks very good! It’s a great book and as it says on the back  ‘sometimes it’s good to be a chicken’ ..

The Friday Book Review: The Wildwood Chronicles.

The Friday Book Review. In this section, posted on a Friday (and I know I’m early, I’m just keen!) I want to bring to your attention some of the brilliant books I have come across. They might be old, new, a great story or fantastic illustrations- but in my opinion they are all great and they are all  for children.

Todays book is ‘The Wildwood Chronicles’ by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. Published by Canongate Books. It is a couple of inches thick and is one of those chapter books that crosses easily between childrens and adult fiction.

This book is epic. The book tells of how Prue, a girl, witnesses her baby brother being snatched and carried away by a murder of crows. She gives chase and sees them disappear into the Impassable Wilderness, where no one ever goes. The following day she sets off to get him back. An unwelcome school friend  joins her and this is the story of their adventures. But it is so much more.. the world they encounter is beautifully imagined, and described and so well thought out. The writer and illustrator are a couple, and  they had imagined this world between them, long before Meloy wrote it. The illustrations are beautiful. A mix of full colour pages, small black and whites and some silouette illustrations, they just add so much to the text. The illustrations are painted in watercolour with some dip pen. Ellis uses quite a muted, limited palette with brighter colours here and there which really draw the eye in. I love how she uses loose washes combined with detail, she gets a great feeling of depth in her illustrations. As you can tell I really like this book. Best of all it gave you that  feeling that all great books give you, where you have been utterly lost amongst its pages, and can’t stop reading it or thinking about it, but suddenly the end is in sight and you have to try to eek out those last pages. I felt quite bereft when I’d finished it. Thank heavens there is a sequel, not out yet here, called ‘Under Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book 2’. Check out the beautiful animated video on their website.

The Picnic Mission.

Here’s some images I’ve just finished, trying out some new things and illustrating some words I’ve written. The first was a test piece..

‘Week after week, families visited the woods with their picnics, they laid out their blankets and took out their wonderful food..and week after week those sneaky animals sneaked and skulked, crawled and creeped and tried to steal some. They never ever succeeded.’

“We need to get nearer the food ” said Squirrel,

“But how, without being spotted?” asked Badger.

“A disguise ,” said Fox, “if we could have a disguise, that might help us to blend in..”

“Oh that’d be wonderful,” said Squirrel, “but what?”

‘Rabbit served them. “We’d like some human outfits please,” said Foxy. Rabbit scurried out to the back of the shop,

“just these three left,” he said. Bear, Squirrel and Fox grabbed outfits.

“What about me?” said Badger.’


Paper Geeky

As promised here is a post about paper. I had happily been using the same type of watercolour paper since college (Saunders and Waterford, Not, 140LB) but since experimenting with other pens and watercolours, I decided to test out some other papers. Here’s the results of my tests. I started by buying a pack of sample papers, (from Lawrences Art shop) I discarded some straight away for being too textured-not what I wanted and useless with a dip pen. In case you don’t know, paper is graded into three types, HP or Hot press -very smooth, Rough is the opposite and very textured, and Not which is inbetween the two. Paper also comes in weights, which here I’ve shown in LB.

On the test sheets, I tested how it was to draw on with a dip pen and how the paint went on and dried. The sheets with fewer experiments on were discarded earlier, where as those with more needed further experiments.

Sheet 1. Arches, RWS, and Fabriano all were very nice and I came back to these later.  The Bockingford papers I didn’t like painting on and RWS 425 LB was just too absorbant.Sheet 2. The two most successful were the Saunders and Waterford papers, (though bizarrely my usual paper didn’t fare so well in the test, but I ignored it a bit on experience!)  The heavier S.W paper was too absorbant.  Archers rough took the paint nicely, but rubbish with the pen. Fabriano and RWS HP papers, I found the paint sort of slipped off.. it didn’t really soak in and wasn’t nice to paint on.Sheet 3. I didn’t like any of these. All hotpress and didn’t take the paint well, it left marks and wasn’t smooth.Sheet 4. More indepth trials on the favourites. RWS white, Not, 300LB. Nice to draw on and the paint went on nicely, but didn’t seem to dry very flat. Arches, 300LB Not, very nice. Paint went on well and good to draw on.Sheet 5. Fabriano 300LB Not. Nice with pen though scratchy. The paint sort of floats on the surface but dries very flat, I didn’t really like how the paint went on.Sheet 6. After trying them all none seemed as good overall as the Saunders and Waterford paper. I then discovered that they do white paper , so two more tests – both 140LB, both white S and W, and there wasn’t much in it! The HP paper was lovely to draw on and took the paint better than any of the other HP papers I tried. The Not worked ok with the dip pen, lovely to paint on .The deciding fact  was that the paint colour seemed denser on the Not and that swung it for me. Very happy with it.

Some new things..

Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve last posted, and I’ve been trying some new things. I’ve been experimenting with lots of different papers-more on that in a separate post-it could get very paper geeky-if  there is such a thing! I’ve been trying a new pen -Rotring art pen-very nice (but why oh why, does the lid not fit on the end of the pen when you’re using it?? huge error!)

I’ve also been trying to write my own story. Its always been a dream of mine to write and illustrate a book, so I’m having a go. Its a big learning curve, but I’ve lots of ideas and you have to start somewhere! I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime heres some images that I’ve been meaning to add..