I was recently asked by the lovely people at Scottish Book Trust to write a small piece of text for their blog - about my work and my first experience of illustrating a picture book. They also asked if I could submit a list of my favourite picture books, which turned out to be a lot harder than it sounded. My list is too long. FAR too long.
In addressing these tasks I faced the familiar struggle of putting my thoughts and ideas into words. I love to read and to make up stories in my head, but writing has never come easily to me. Pictures are my thing. So, in coming up with my 'top 5 picture books', I sought comfort by looking at some of my favourite picture books that have no words at all. My final list had to be dramatically narrowed down and many of these books did not make it, so I thought I would use my blog to give a little nod to some beautiful works of wordless genius I have been pouring over recently. And here they are:
My Favourite Wordless Picture Books
1. Clown by Quentin Blake
Quentin Blake's illustrations of Red Riding Hood as she 'whips a pistol from her knickers', and Fantastic Mr Fox dancing with glee as he breaks into the chicken coop will always be first to come to mind when he is mentioned. But this charming story about a lost toy clown holds it's own special place in my heart. It is a lovely story of friendship and perseverance with such lively energetic images that there is no need for words.
2. The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay
Any text on these pages would be a travesty! The stylised illustrations of trees and leaves manage to come to life in such a way that they communicate not only the simple story but also a real sense of music and movement.
3. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
I had to include this one. I always have the sound of 'Walking in the air' in my head when I look through this book. This is probably because of countless Christmases spent viewing the animated version, but I like to think the soft, sweet illustrations have something to do with it (though they can't account for David Bowie popping into my head and introducing the story...)
4. Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins
Okay, confession time - this one has some text. But it doesn't need the words! The humour and the real story are in the pictures alone. I remember reading this as a child and feeling SO clever that I could see the accidents waiting to befall the oblivious fox (while silly grown ups busy reading the words had no idea!)
Admittedly I am sitting in my studio reading these books alone (and having a lovely time thank you very much) but the best thing about picture books with few words is the experience you can have when you share the book with a child. Point things out, spend time over the illustrations, or even have a play and make up your own story to go with the images. I think I know what books I'm taking next time I visit my nephews...