Picture Books: Two Pronged Literature

Craig Green - Clickety Author

three billy goatsWhen I was five I had my adenoids removed. I spent a while in hospital with a box of Star Wars figures and a Ladybird edition of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was a book that I pored over with feverish intensity. In this particular edition there was an illustration that I found terrifying beyond all belief and reason. It was picture of the troll underneath a bridge, poised
to pounce on the three goats. I have had that beautiful, ghastly image burnt onto my retinas ever since. It was a fantastic illustration that enhanced the story perfectly. That I was too scared to sleep in my hospital bed is neither here nor there! I had the book bug.

 

My favourite book of all time is a picture book. 'Not Now Bernard' is a masterpiece by any standard. The story is shocking. A boy gets killed half way through the story by a foul beast, but this greedy, terrifying monster is not the villain. The beauty of the book is the deft balance between the tight, sparse prose and the stylish, unsettling illustrations. They are in constant harmony and each is heightened by the other. For this reason David McKee, the author and illustrator, is my hero. Mr Benn, Two Tusks and Two Monsters are deeply subversive, painstakingly crafted and, above all else, wildly entertaining. The man knows how to grab children by the imagination and drag them into his world. Picture books are gateway books. Our first love of literature comes from this two pronged attack of words and images. altTenniel's illustrations for Alice In Wonderland were as important to me as Carroll's words. I will never forget the day that Sarah Leigh-Wills emailed me the first pencil sketches of Jacqueline the Black Alpaca. It was a joyous moment, partly because of the art before me, but also because of the intense relief that there was chemistry between illustrator and writer, like Donaldson and Scheffler or Dahl and Blake (although we have a way to go to reach those dizzy heights). The stories NEED the pictures. I hope that some child will take half as much pleasure from a Clickety Books picture as I did from that Ladybird book 31 years ago.

 

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