Category Archives: Illustrators

Picture Book Nook: Bang by Leo Timmers

I’ve been a huge fan of Leo Timmers ever since Gecko Press first introduced us to his work when they published Who’s Driving? Each book of Leo’s that Gecko publishes seems to be funnier and more clever than the last.  Leo’s latest book from Gecko, Bang, is his best yet.

Bang is virtually wordless but Leo Timmers proves that you don’t need words to tell a hilarious story.  It all starts with a book-loving deer who is driving his car while reading.  Everyone knows that’s a bad idea and that it’s not going to end well.  What starts off with one ‘Bang,’ quickly escalates into a multi-vehicle pile-up, with animals, food, clothes, and paint ending up in one huge mess.

I absolutely love this book!  Leo brings his characters to life in his characteristic, vibrant illustrations.  I love how each of the animals have their own distinct personality and a vehicle that seems to be a perfect match for them and their outfit.  The cat has a very small, pink car and the rabbit has a very long car to fit all her children. Leo’s characters also have very expressive faces that portray all sorts of emotions throughout the story, from the horrified expression of the pig before he crashes, to the stressed expression of the mother rabbit.

There is a wonderful sense of anticipation throughout the whole book.  Each time a new character crashes you wonder what effect it will have on the other characters, and it often has unexpected results.  The sign of a excellent picture book is being able to turn the page and not know what will happen next.    Just when you think you know how the story will end, Leo surprises you.  Each time you read the book you’re bound to find some quirky detail you didn’t see last time.

The book has been beautifully produced by Gecko Press, with delightful end-papers and the wonderful fold-out page right at the end.  One of the reasons I love Gecko Press picture books is that they produce beautiful hard-back editions that will be treasured for many years, and this book is no exception.

Bang is a picture book that adults will love just as much as children and you’ll want to read it again and again. Thank you Gecko Press for bringing us the magic of Leo Timmers!

Win a copy of Bang

Thanks to Gecko Press I have a copy of Bang to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 10 May (NZ only).

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Learn to draw from Oliver Jeffers and Jeff Kinney

If you’ve run out of things to keep your kids entertained in the last few days of the holidays why not get them drawing.  Who better to teach them than Oliver Jeffers and Jeff Kinney!

Oliver Jeffers teaches you how to draw a moose.

Jeff Kinney teaches you how to draw Greg Heffley

Jeff Kinney teaches you how to draw Manny Heffley

 

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Picture Book Nook: Ted by Leila Rudge

I mentioned recently that I’m a sucker for a good dog story, so when I first saw Leila Rudge’s new picture book Ted I fell in love.  Ted, the little dog who is the subject of the story, graces the front cover in various poses wearing his little green jumper.  I knew right away that I would love Ted and you will too.

Ted is a smart dog, with his own jumper. But he has lived at the pet store for as long as he can remember and nobody seems to notice him. Will Ted ever find the perfect place to live? Ted joins the circus, enters a pet pageant, and takes a job as a guard dog, but nobody notices him.  When he least expects it, Ted gets noticed.

Ted is a superb picture book by a very talented author and illustrator.  Ted is a loveable character that children certainly will notice and want to take home. The story is great to read aloud and will have children laughing and hoping for Ted to find a home.  The illustrations are both cute and funny, with lots of quirky details that children will point out.  I particularly like where Ted puts his collar when he’s a guard dog.  The end papers even add to the story (compare the ones at the front to those at the back).

The ending of the book is absolutely hilarious and I definitely didn’t see it coming.  I thought it had all gone horribly wrong for Ted, just when things were looking up.  You’ll just have to read it to find out what happens.

Ted is the perfect book to snuggle up with and share before bed on a cold Winter’s night, so grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

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Jez Alborough reads Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile

Jez Alborough is the creator of some wonderful picture books, including the classic Duck in the Truck.  I am a huge fan of his books, with their bouncy, rhyming text and bright, cheery illustrations.  Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile is his latest book and the first in a fantastic new series.  I’ve been following the creation of Nat the Cat through Jez’s Facebook page.  It’s really interesting to see the steps of putting a picture book together and the different stages of the illustrations.

Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile is available now in NZ from Random House.

Watch the video below to see and hear Jez reading Nat the Cat’s Sunny Smile and singing the song from the book.

 

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Picture Book Nook: The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

What do you get when you bring together the author of weird and wonderful stories, Lemony Snicket, and the award-winning illustrator Jon Klassen?  You get The Dark, a whimsical tale with stunning illustrations about a boy who is afraid of the dark.

Laszlo is afraid of the dark.  He lives in a big house, with a ‘creaky roof, smooth, cold windows and several flights of stairs.’  The dark also lives in this house and it hides in lots of different places. Laszlo thinks that if he visits the dark in the dark’s room, maybe it won’t come and visit Laszlo in his room.  However, one night it does come and visit Laszlo and tells him that it has something to show him…down in the basement.

The Dark is a unique take on the theme of being scared of the dark and it’s a wonderful collaboration between these two very talented people.  Jon Klassen’s illustrations are the perfect match for Lemony Snicket’s delightful and humourous text.  I really love Jon’s illustration style as he achieves so much with very little detail.  The way that he has contrasted the light and dark in this book is spectacular.  The dark is a character in the story and I love the way that Jon has portrayed this, especially when the dark is hiding in the cupboard or behind the shower curtain.  Some of the pages are almost completely black, apart from Laszlo and the details that we see in the beam of his flashlight.  The text has a uniquely Lemony Snicket style and tone, and it certainly took me by surprise.  I love the language that he uses to describe the house and the dark itself.

‘The voice of the dark was as creaky as the roof of the house, and as smooth and cold as the windows, and even though the dark was right next to Laszlo, the voice seemed very far away.’

If you know a child that is scared of the dark, The Dark, is the perfect reassuring story to read to them.  It’s also the perfect book for Jon Klassen fans who will be drooling over his illustrations.

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Fast Five with Jenny Cooper

  • Why did I want to be an illustrator?
I never knew you could be an illustrator, but I always drew, at home, when I was young. Then I grew up and discovered that there was a whole world of picture books for children, and even though I had other jobs like teaching and advertising, I couldn’t help being drawn to children’s illustration, because I had spent so many thousands of hours, as a child, doing that sort of art. So in a way, I had no choice, it just happened naturally.
  • What is the best thing about being an illustrator?
The best thing is when you do a picture that you are really proud of. This doesn’t happen often, usually I am disappointed in my work. But just sometimes, maybe one picture out of 10, I do something that really surprises me, astonishes me and makes me think, how did I paint something that good? When that happens, it makes all the other, average, illustrations, worth it.
  • What is your favourite New Zealand Book?
The Year of the Shining Cuckoo by Joyce West. It is not in print now, I bought it second hand and read it once a year.
My favourite NZ picture books are  probably A Booming in the Night, by Helen Taylor, or Dragor, by Philip Webb
  • What do you love most about New Zealand?
New Zealand to me means freedom and space. I didn’t notice the  space and peace and quiet here until I had travelled in Europe, where the beaches are so full you don’t have room to put down a beach towel. And I can be in the mountains in an hour, if I want, or beside a beautiful clean alpine lake. And I love our relaxed and unfussy way of life, as Kiwis are basically trustworthy and trusting of other people, and I really hope it stays that way. Doors don’t always have to be locked, and a lost wallet will probably be returned, and if you want to live in an unusual way, up a mountain or on a boat, you are free to do it.
  • What do you love most about libraries?
If I go into a library for one book, I always come out with 5, there are so many interesting things to read about. But unlike the internet, where you are alone, libraries are always full of other people. Libraries are friendly, the people are helpful, and I always come out feeling I have spent my time well, and learned something. And of course, the books are free!
Jennifer Cooper is a children’s book illustrator with a background in graphic design.  Jenny has illustrated books for Melanie Drewery, Yvonne Morrison, Joy Cowley, and Jane Buxton, among many others.  Jenny’s most recent collaboration is with the Topp Twins for their version of There’s a Hole in My Bucket and Do Your Ears Hang Low?

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Picture Book Nook: Cheese Belongs To You! by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz

I love picture books that start with a simple idea, then build up and build up into a ridiculous situation.  One of my favourite examples of this is Oliver Jeffers’ fantastic picture book, Stuck.  Floyd’s kite gets stuck in the tree and more and more things get thrown up to try and knock the kite down.  Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz’ new book Cheese Belongs To Me! is another book like this, that builds on one simple rat law: cheese belongs to you.

Rat law is simple: if you take a piece of cheese, it belongs to you. So if a bigger rat takes it … then cheese belongs to them. Unless … a quicker rat swipes it! Every rat knows rat law; if you are big or quick, strong or scary, hairy or dirty, or, indeed, all of the above. But just who gets to EAT the cheese?

Cheese Belongs To You is a hilarious picture book about one piece of cheese and the rules that decide which rat it belongs to.  The more complicated the situation becomes, the faster you want to read.  The only problem is that you start to trip over your tongue so you have to slow down (try saying ‘big, quick, strong, scary, hairy, dirty rats’ quickly 3 times).  I love the inventive ways that Alexis has come up with to describe the different rats, so that each one is better than the last.  You find yourself anticipating what might be next and I’m sure kids will too.  There could be lots of discussion about what sort of rat could come next.  Viviane’s illustrations are superb as always and I think her style of illustration is perfect for this story.  Her rats all have different personalities, and even on a page filled with them all the rats look different.  I especially love the ‘big, quick, strong, scary, hairy, dirty rat,’ with his hook-hand, peg-leg and pet cockroach.  I think a great way to introduce the story would be to cover up the text and see if the children can guess why each rat is better than the last.  I also love the way that Viviane has incorporated the cheese into every page, including the cheesy end papers.

After the situation turns into utter chaos the story reaches a satisfying conclusion that keeps everyone happy.  Grab a copy of Cheese Belongs To You! and share it with the children in your life.  I’ll certainly be reading this to every class, from Year 1 to Year 8 on my next library visits.

5 out of 5 stars

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Fast Five with Lindy Fisher

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I can’t seem to help making images. I’ve done it forever! I enjoy texture and colour and playing with it. Sometimes my images are used to illustrate children’s stories, sometimes to feature on NZ postage stamps and other times on peoples walls in their homes.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to do what I love for my job and introducing other people to the fun I have so they can enjoy it too. Either using their imagination to interpret my pictures or using my techniques to make their own new ones.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Always the one I am working on or have just had published. At the moment it is “Remember that November” by Jennifer Beck.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Living by the sea on its gorgeous coast line under some pohutakawa trees.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

That books are free! BUT I never want to take them back!!

Lindy Fisher is an illustrator who has created the illustrations for stories by Jennifer Beck and Dot Meharry, including Nobody’s Dog, A Present from the Past, and Remember That November.

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Fast Five with Donovan Bixley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to illustrate things that I was really interested in, which doesn’t always happen when you illustrate other author’s stories. So I decided to write my own stories.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Coming up with ideas is very exciting. The hard part is the months and years it take to make those ideas good enough. Through a lot of hard work they get turned into a finished book.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book? 

“Sydney and the Sea Monster” by David Elliot. I also love “The Word Witch” by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love that we’re a small country, with a population not much bigger than a city in most countries. New Zealanders are fairly humble and relaxed people on the whole, and not too stressed out. I love being able to enjoy our lakes and mountains and coasts with my family.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

I like browsing the shelves and finding books that I would not normally look at. I still like to get reference books from the library. The Internet is not quite the same.

Looky BookDonovan Bixley is an author and illustrator who has created the illustrations for his own books and for books by other authors.  He has created Kiwi versions of The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm, and his latest book is the wonderful Kiwi-themed puzzle book, The Looky Book.  Donovan has also illustrated Brian Falkner’s Northwood and Maddy West and the Tongue Taker, and created the Dinosaur Rescue series with Kyle Mewburn.

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Picture Book Nook: The Silly Goat Gruff by Scott Tulloch

The Silly Goat Gruff by Scott Tulloch is the second fairytale retelling that Scholastic New Zealand have published this month and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Scott Tulloch presents a version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff that you’ve never heard before.

In The Silly Goat Gruff there are three goats called Willy, Billy and Silly Goat Gruff who want to get to the other side of the bridge, where there is lush, green grass.  They get sick of nibbling on pine cones and chewing on pebbles and so they each try to cross the bridge.  But we all know that there is a mean, smelly troll living under this bridge and he’s also hungry.  Just when you think you know how the story goes, Scott turns it on its head.

The Silly Goat Gruff is a hilarious retelling of the classic story, with a twist in the tale that you won’t see coming.  The rhyming text flows perfectly, making it a fun story to read aloud.  Scott uses some wonderful language throughout the story, words like leer, sneered and smithereens, that many children may not have heard before.  I love some of the phrases that Scott uses too, like ‘What the dickens are you doing?’ and ‘I’m scarcely a snack with salad and fries.’  The distinct characters in the story make it ideal for acting out in class, or for a librarian like me to do some great funny voices.  The twist in the story made me laugh out loud because it’s so funny and totally silly.  Needless to say, Silly Goat Gruff has some hidden talents that come in very handy when facing a hungry troll.

Scott’s illustrations add extra silliness and humour to the story.  Silly Goat Gruff doesn’t look the brightest or most handsome goat on the mountain, but I love the way Scott has drawn him, with his tongue hanging out, crooked teeth, and wonky eyes.  I’m sure if you were a troll you wouldn’t feel threatened by him in the slightest.  The moral of the story though is that looks can be deceiving and you shouldn’t judge anyone by how they look.  I also really like Scott’s troll, who looks both scary and cuddly.

4 out of 5 stars

The Silly Goat Gruff is another wonderful New Zealand book that you could borrow from your library or buy from a bookshop (using your NZ Book Month $5 voucher) to share during NZ Book Month. 

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