Book covers are exciting things. They’re a creative part of the book that the writer has little or no input into. You might get asked for the odd idea, but apart from that you just have to wait and be surprised. Which is fine, if you like surprised. Not so fine if you’re the type of person who turns to the last page of a book halfway through just to find out what happens.
I’ve been reading some things recently about illustrators, and how these hard-working, creative, visual story-tellers often don’t get the credit they deserve for their work. And that makes me sad. Because visuals can count every bit as much as language. Even more sometimes. A child who cannot read, for example, might be able to engage with story in a wonderful and valid way if the picture is clear enough. But before I get up on my teacher high-horse (and believe me it is a very high horse indeed, I sometimes get vertigo up there)
I’m going to share with you some illustrators I love, with links to their books, and then show you the gorgeous cover for my new book Needlework, which will be out in February 2016.
- Sheena Dempsey- she drew a picture of my late guinea pigs for me (I have six pieces of Guinea Art on my walls. I may have a problem. But it is not lack of guinea pig art.) And WHAT’S MORE, she wrote a book about a boy and his guinea pig and it’s called Bruno and Titch and it’s only gorgeous. You can have a look at her art on her website here. What I like most about her is how good she is at expressions. With a little curved line, she can make a whole range of emotions. Shyness, exultation, pride in one’s guinea pig. The lot. Most stories are made of feelings. And expressions are how we tell the story of our feelings to other people. They’re hard to get perfect. And she manages it. Also, she has an elegant greyhound. #lifegoals
- PJ Lynch. JUST LOOK AT THEM. A PERSON MADE THOSE. WITH NORMAL HUMAN HANDS. There is no more to say about PJ Lynch. But please look through his many wonderful books on his website. This is the most recent one he has illustrated, which features a story by our own lovely Sarah Webb, the woman who introduced me to Girls Heart Books in the first place.
- Chris Haughton. Oh No George!, to be specific. Oh No George! is about a big dog called George who tries really hard to be good. Everyone has been a George at some point in their lives. I live in a near-constant state of George. His illustrations have a flatness to them, but they look really tactile as well. My love of George is very strong, even though in Germany his name is Paul.
- Beatrix Potter. I have a love of animals. And she drew animals in little outfits, being dignified. With names like Jemima. And Mr. Todd. My Dad gave me her complete works for my eighth birthday and it’s still one of my favourite things. Particularly The Tailor of Gloucester. Which is a story about a heroic cat called Simpkin and the stupid mice who thwart his class revenge on the frail human male who saved them from being dinner. Stories about lonely old men being disappointed and then happy are guaranteed to make me cry. The John Lewis Christmas ad this year was basically made with me in mind. Floods.
- Dave Mc Kean.He works a lot with Neil Gaiman, who is a writer I love. But McKean’s work is all his own. There’s a nightmarish quality to his work. A sort of weirdness. He makes pictures in a lot of different ways, but there’s always a little off-kilter surprise in them. I particularly love the book The Wolves in The Walls, because you can basically taste and smell the illustrations in it. Almost…
- Steve Mc Carthy. He drew my cover, which is one of my favourite things in the world. Behold! But also behold all the other cool things he has done on his lovely website.
Which illustrators do you properly love?