I have been busy wrapping presents this weekend including a number of books, and it reminded me that I am still a sucker for a beautifully illustrated children's book.
It all started before I could even read properly, I would pore over my parents pre- loved copies of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland & the Water Babies Illustrated by Alice B Woodward, Margaret Tarrant & Mabel Lucie Atwell from the early to mid part of the 20th Century. I would search for the coloured plates and memorise every last detail, I still have the books and find Hugh loves them just as much.
When I started school I became obsessed with Meg and Mog illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski, full of colour and energy, a great example of how a simple concept executed well can inspire children to engage in reading. Another big favourite at this time was Miffy created by Dick Bruna, what amazes me now about Miffy is how timeless it is. I had no idea until I started to write this post that it was originally created in 1955, Miffy is a world away from other Children's illustrators of the 1950s and with the last Miffy book having been published in 2007 it is still relevant to children today.
As I began to read chapter books, two Illustrators stand out, E. H. Shepard & Quentin Blake. Although Wind in the Willows & Winnie the Pooh were originally illustrated in the early part of the 20th century, colour re-illustrations were added to both in 1969 & 1970 and so were exposed to a whole new generation of children. Winnie the Pooh was my favourite, I read it and re- read it, I still love the gentle quality of the pencil sketches and the depiction of adventures in the countryside. On reflection I think our family time is in part inspired by Winnie the Pooh, walking through fields in wellies, playing Pooh Sticks at the little bridge over the stream near our home and dragging big sticks behind us - oh and not to forget that Grandpa makes HUNNY! Even some of my family photos seem to be inspired by Piglet and Pooh walking off in to the sunset!
I got to know Quentin Blake (as I expect most of us did) through the books of Roald Dahl and his illustrations capture perfectly the naughty mischievous nature of Roald Dahl's writing. More recently I discovered Quentin Blakes own children's books and the Green Ship has become a firm favourite not only of Hugh but of his daddy!
Back to what originally prompted me to write this post, there are some amazing illustrated books around for children today. Yesterday I purchased a copy of A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton for a small person in our family and it is a thing of real beauty to me. Hugh is devastated that we are giving it away and a little part of me is too. It has a rare quality of being quite clean and simple while at the same time having tiny little details for your child to search out. I am massively inspired by the slightly vintage colours and layered tonal quality of the illustration. See his work at http://chrishaughton.com
Another current favourite is Jon Klassen. I recently purchased a copy of This is not My Hat for our young friend George which again I had to prise from my sons hands. A simple yet clever story, with a sponge printed/ paint splattered style of of illustration on a black background, its become a favourite with George and his mummy & daddy, and inspired a lovely fish thank you card from him. Someone closer to home will be getting a copy of I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen for Christmas as consolation for giving away 2 such lovely books!
You can see pages from This Is Not My Hat here (I am afraid it is the US site as you cannot look inside the book on rthe UK one) http://www.amazon.com/This-Not-Hat-Jon-Klassen/dp/0763655996/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387733531&sr=1-1