Our intern Joe considers the European fairytale tradition . . .
Jacob and Wilhem Grimm didn’t live in a vacuum. They were politically aware academics collecting stories (often from the upper and middle classes) in the brief decades between The Enlightenment and German unification. They lived in a unique place and time within the evolution of European society. And yet, the stories they collected have been retold and beloved at least in part because they cover subjects of such authentic humanity as to make the tales seem timeless.
In Blackberry Blue, and other fairy tales, Jamila Gavin offers six brand-new stories inspired by the tales of the Grimms as well as Hans Christian Anderson, but updates this tradition to reflect our ethnically diverse population. On the surface of it, this collection is for girls and boys who have ever fallen down and noticed the ‘flesh-coloured’ sticking plaster doesn’t quite match or wondered why Father Christmas doesn’t look like their father but, as we learn in Gavin’s tales, appearances deceive. With stunningly beautiful (truly stunning) illustrations, these tales speak to the same authentically human power as what we have from the Grimms because Gavin, like Europe itself, has invited a wider audience to join.
In the 45 years between their first and final editions, the Grimms added and edited and altered their collection. Society was changing, the Grimms were changing, and so their stories changed. They were not the first to tell most of their stories and, two centuries on, we continue to add to and edit and alter the pantheon of European faery tales. With Blackberry Blue, Gavin gives us the next incarnation of this long and ever-evolving tradition.
By Jamie Smith
I feel very lucky to be illustrating Ann Cameron’s series; the stories are jam packed with special moments and the characters are so vividly drawn. This makes illustrating the books a lot of fun – and there are always lots of options for the cover illustration.
I grew up in a family of four with a younger brother and unruly dog, so I really relate to the stories. For this reason the Tiger Tells All cover is one of my favourite illustrations. I’ve spent many hours chasing dogs around a back garden, with cats fleeing up trees and discarded socks strewn across the lawn. I too would struggle to resist dipping my finger into a voluminous lemon pudding, such as the one found in The Julian Stories. I really enjoyed this cover and one day soon I will follow the recipe in the back of the book, and see if it’s possible for the pudding to see out an evening unscathed.
My path always seemed destined towards a career in illustration, from the moment my grandmother first stepped into my classroom as a substitute teacher and instructed us to draw something. My efforts were doubled; I surrounded myself with coloured crayons (no doubt a little pink tongue was protruding from the corner of my mouth!) and produced a colourful hamster. It actually looked like a hamster, and from that day forward a sketchbook was my constant companion, even on holiday. I would devour comics, studying the artwork of Leo Baxendale in the Beano and recreating his characters.
My working process today is constantly evolving, and sometimes it still involves coloured crayons. I started life as a watercolour, dip pen and ink artist, but the Ann Cameron books are created with an array of pencils and some splashes of paint, and are brought together on the computer.
John Burningham was the first illustrator of children’s books to demand my attention, and though my influences are numerous and change daily I always return to the likes of Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey. There are so many characters that I would have loved to create, but I do have serious beard envy when it comes to Quentin Blake’s Mr Twit.
I work in a little studio at the bottom of my garden, flanked by apple trees and in the company of a huge array of birds and hungry insects. I could do with a friend like Gloria, to point out when my backside is covered with ants!
Jamie Smith illustrates the Julian and Huey books by Ann Cameron. To see Jamie’s work in action, check out Tiger Tells All, The Julian Stories and Julian’s Glorious Summer!
Friday July 9th saw Brighton’s Balfour Infants School in for a treat – not only did they get a visit from their newly-elected local Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, but also Tamarind illustrator Karin Littlewood! The Year 1 and 2 pupils listened cross-legged to a great speech from Caroline about biodiversity. She explained that if you imagined the world as an apple, only a quarter of it would be land, and the rest water… and only a half of that bit of land was habitable! So you can imagine how important it is to protect that relative slither of land we live on.
After Caroline spoke, Karin gave a brilliant reading of The Day the Rains Fell. The book explores the idea of how the watering holes appeared in the savannah desert and celebrates the diversity of the animals living in the plains. One by one, each animal lends its colours to Thandi’s beaded necklace until she has a rainbow assortment of colours! After the reading the children decorated their own beads with all the patterns of their favourite animals.
The children enjoyed the arts and crafts no end, but the event had a serious message. Caroline Lucas said “…young people need to learn about the earth’s fragile state. We’ve taken the biosphere for granted for too long. The global climate talks last year in Copenhagen failed to tackle climate change in any meaningful way so time is running out.”
Caroline also praised the book, saying “The Day the Rains Fell is the best book I’ve seen for younger children – and for parents who want their children to enjoy and learn at the same time – about why humanity and every species on the planet is threatened.”
More of Tamarind’s ‘green’ books:
Last month in this feature you met Odette Elliott, a picture book author. Once we have a powerful story, we turn to illustrators to bring them to life. Here’s a little bit from an illustrator extraordinaire, Carl Pearce.
Which books have you had published?
I’ve illustrated The Silence Seeker, Big Eyes, Scary Voice, Ferris Fleet and The Night The Lights Went Out for Tamarind as well as a tonne of educational and fun books elsewhere.
What inspired your artwork on The Silence Seeker?
The 1993 Michael Douglas movie ‘Falling Down’. The way that film looks is a big influence on a lot of my work. Also, a lot of the scenes in the story are actual places local to me in North Wales and Chester.
What you’d be if you weren’t an artist?
I don’t think I am an ‘artist’ but I would either be a fireman or a nature photographer somewhere interesting like South Africa or Northern Canada. I may still change jobs, you never know.
What are your hobbies?
Drawing, obviously. Watching movies, reading books and comics, being outdoors and on the beach and making stuff, like models, toys, pictures, a mess…
What are you reading at the moment?
211 Things A Bright Boy Can Do by Tom Cutler. It’s my bible.
What’s your favourite Tamarind book and why?
Can I be selfish and pick Big Eyes, Scary Voice, merely because I had so much fun ‘researching’ it in Cornwall in 2007. I took over 400 photographs of bits and pieces I wanted to add into the pictures on that book.
If you’d like to book Carl for a signing, drawing workshop or talk with questions and answers in your school or library, please contact Kelly Tapper in our publicity team on email@example.com or 020 8231 6648. Carl is based in North Wales.
On the 5th – 9th October, the Shoreditch Trust held its first children’s literary festival in Hoxton Square. At the StarLit Festival, which coincided with National Children’s Book Week, pupils aged 5-15 from local schools participated in a week of workshops, book sales and signings. The guest authors included former children’s laureate Michael Rosen and RHCB author Catherine Johnson.
Tamarind authors and illustrators were invited to host workshops. Gillian Swordy, first-time author, joined the festival from Gloucestershire, and was delighted to see her book, Reading between the Lions, fly off the shelves.
Karin Littlewood, illustrator of Siddharth and Rinki and The Dragon Kite, led teachers and children from Burbage Primary in drawing their own dragons on a flowing frieze. Pupils at Randal Cremer Primary each designed their own noisy city scene with Carl Pearce, illustrator of The Silence Seeker and The Night the Lights Went Out.
Specialist children’s bookseller Victoria Park Books facilitated sales, and all the Tamarind titles sold out.
On Wednesday 7th October, illustrator Patrice Aggs came up from Sussex to meet author Odette Elliott and launch their picture book My Big Brother JJ. The launch was held at a school local to Odette, Leopold Primary School, Willesden. The event was covered in the local press, and sales were organised by the Willesden Bookshop. Every copy of JJ sold out on the day, and 50 Tamarind catalogues were also snapped up by parents. Willesden Bookshop have arranged a further book signing date with Odette for lucky locals.