happening in the pictures.’ For him, this is one of the joys of creating picturebooks.

In Life on Mars, ‘there is something happening

where the narrator is clearly not seeing what is following him and the humour comes from that. There’s all this incongruity which can happen between text and pictures which is very dynamic. I love that!’

For the joys the form has, it also has challenges. ‘If you have pictures that go across the gutters because of the way the binding works, you lose them and it can be a bit of a headache. If someone does a painting, they don’t have to worry that they need to leave room for words and for the gutter.’ Jon describes The Wall in the Middle of the Book as his revenge on the gutter. ‘I was able to put a physical wall in the middle of the book and the pictures couldn’t get across. It was liberating to treat the gutter as though it was an impenetrable barrier.’ Jon was looking for a way to turn this concept into a story. ‘I’m always looking for ways to tell an interesting story. It also happened that this made an interesting comment on judging people without getting to know them.’ The book was endorsed by Amnesty International, something that Jon never considered would happen with a book of his, but which is describes, with characteristic modesty, as a really pleasant surprise.

Jon’s picturebooks are enjoying renewed attention in the UK thanks to Scallywag Press. Sarah Pakenham was introduced to Jon’s work at the Taipei Book Expo in Taiwan. The relationship was a special joy for Jon as it meant being reunited with his former editor Janice Thompson who published The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau at Faber & Faber in 1988. The chance to revisit the work has been welcomed by Jon. ‘I always felt it needed to be larger. Most picturebooks these days are a bit bigger. The new book is a bigger format and is 40 pages.’ This has enabled the metafictional ending to be emphasised with the picture and accompanying line of text where Felix ‘returned to his painting’ to have their own individual pages. ‘Everyone acknowledges when they finish a book there is always at least one picture where you wish you could redo that picture. With new paintings and revised layout, this version is the director’s cut!’

Alongsidehis picturebooks, Jon has created numerous much loved collections of wordplay including tongue twisters,


palindromes and oxymorons. ‘The ones I’m most known for is palindromes. In 1991 I published a book called Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog! At the time there was only one cartoon book of palindromes, I didn’t know much about them but started creating them myself. They are funny sounding, magical and off-beat but absolutely need a picture. Children love them when I visit schools and it turns out I’m pretty good at them.’ Jon has a forthcoming book this autumn, Otto where all the dialogue will be in palindromes.

Many of Jon’s books have been lauded with accolades and critical acclaim,

asked what his proudest achievement has been, he

comments ‘the fact the books are still in print and that people are reading them and find them relevant. I’d love to think the books are changing people in a good way, expanding their imaginations and helping them to feel more creative.’’

Books mentioned Little Santa, Dial Books, 9780803739062 hbk Life on Mars, Scallywag Press, 978-1912650156, £6.99 pbk The Wall in the Middle of the Book, Scallywag Press, 9781912650057, £7.99 pbk The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau, Scallywag Press, 9781912650576, £12.99 hbk

Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!, 9780440830450, pbk

Jake Hope is chair of the working party for Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. He is a children’s book and reading development consultant. His book Seeing sense: visual literacy as a tool for libraries, learning and reader development, is published by Facet Publishing, 9781783304417, £39.95.

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