I wish I’d written… Piers Torday is lost in admiration for Skellig.

One of my great frustrations is that I seem incapable of writing a short book, and that books intended to be about one thing often end up running away to be about quite another. (This last is not uncommon, I know!) On both counts I am profoundly envious and lost in admiration for Skellig by David Almond.

This is a short book, at 170 odd pages, but it contains multitudes. The story is deceptively simple – about a boy discovering a mysterious visitor in the garage of his new home – but manages to be many great middle grade genres in one succinct, effortless and uplifting tale. It has the relevance of social realism but also the escapism of fantasy. It is visionary but also a compelling adventure mystery. I challenge anyone to read it and not be profoundly moved but the story throughout is leavened with wit and joy. And for extra bonus points, it is set in my beloved North East. Just who Skellig is remains ambiguous but what is never in any doubt, as in much great fiction, is the power of miracles.

Piers Torday’s latest book, There May Be A Castle (978-1-7842-9274-4) is published by Quercus Children’s Books, £6.99 pbk

Skellig (978-0-3409-4495-0) by David Almond is published by Hodder Children’s Books, £7.99 pbk.

BfK Drawn from the Archive;

Hidden Histories of Illustration HHHH

Sarah Lawrance, with a foreword by Jacqueline Wilson, Walker, 128pp, 978-0-9928827-0-9 £9.99 pbk

This beautifully produced book invites readers to of Seven

step into archive Stories: the

National Centre for the Children’s Book and explore the rich history of children’s illustration documented therein. Representing 25 different illustrators from the 1930s to the present day, Drawn from the Archive offers an accessible introduction to the process of children’s book illustration and the way it has evolved over time. Organised around key periods of British illustration - the

1930s-1950s, 1960s-1980s,

and 1990s-2000s – it showcases material held in in the Seven Stories archive. The book (and the archive) represent some of the leading lights of British illustration from each period, including Edward Ardizzone, Faith

Jaques, John Burningham, Shirley Hughes and Pat Hutchins, the

making this a delightful tour of the

visual landscape of British

childhoods over the last eighty years. Each section introduces a single

work by a notable illustrator and sets it in context, discussing biographical details about the illustrator (and sometimes the author of the work illustrated), the context of children’s illustration at the time, and what is revealed by the materials in the archive. The book is filled with intriguing details: the entry on Ruth Gervis notes that when her editor commissioned her illustrations of Ballet Shoes she was unaware that Gervis was author Noel Streatfeild’s sister, while the discussion of draft material for Bob Graham’s Jethro Byrde, Fairy Childe points out the late removal of human hands shown offering a plate of cakes, deemed ‘too fleshy and enormous’. Many of these details reveal the ideological cross- currents


books: the dummy book for Edward Ardizzone’s Tim

shape and

children’s Charlotte

features a far more perilous storyline in the shape of criminals who try to falsely claim Charlotte (eventually

22 Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018

reviews Books about Children’s Books

to be replaced with a tamer aunt). Sarah Garland was urged to change the endpaper illustrations for her book Billy and Belle because they showed parents of different races in bed together, on the grounds that the image would hamper the sale of international co-editions (Garland, to her credit, refused). The richest aspect of this book is the insight it gives into how picture books are made, and how the

process has changed over

time. The section devoted to Pat Hutchins’ 1 Hunter clearly sets out the impact of the colour separation process: a comparison between the gouache painting of the three giraffes – produced early on in the development of the book – with the finished artwork – created ready for the printing process in the form of black line and four colour separations – illustrates how this process contributed to Hutchins’ signature

style. Yasmin Ismail’s

Time for Bed, Fred! illustrates how digital technologies have afforded illustrators new strategies such as the use of mixed media collage. The

excellent production quality of the book itself showcases the archive material to good effect. For those new to thinking about

children’s book illustration, the book offers an appealing introduction to the evolution of the material book; for experts, it is a tantalising glimpse into the possibilities of the Seven Stories collection. A pleasing addition to a field which still has too few works devoted to children’s book illustration. LP

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