Monday, 19 September 2016

Seven Brilliant Books about BIBLIOPHILES

This post was originally published on Picture Book Den, a blog about picture books by picture book authors and illustrators.

Prince Ribbit, my latest picture book with the wonderfully talented Argentinian illustrator Poly Bernatene, has just been published in UK hardback and paperback.

Prince Ribbit’s heroine, Princess Martha finds inspiration in the Royal Library.

Although Prince Ribbit is the fourth book that Poly and I have done together, it’s really a follow up to our second, The Princess and the Pig, in that both stories are set in a fairytale world populated by characters who love books.

The characters in The Princess and the Pig use the books they’re reading to interpret (usually mistakenly) what's happening to them in the the story.

As a book-lover myself, I’ve aways enjoyed reading stories about other bibliophiles. There’s something satisfyingly meta about reading a book about a character who is reading a book. So here are seven brilliant picture books about bibliophiles.

One of my favourite novels of recent years is David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas which is effectively six books nested inside each other like a set of Russian dolls. Each book jumps forward in time and one of the ingenious connections between the stories is that characters featured in the inner books are reading the outer books. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book does something similar in picture book format. Each spread introduces a new character who is reading their favourite book, the inside of which is shown on the next spread. So the book starts with eponymous Charlie, who is reading a book about a pirate, who is reading a book of fairy tales, and so on. While Scheffler's spread layouts shift around as the reader jumps from genre to genre, Donaldson ties the whole bookshelf together with her perfectly-scanning rhyme.

The spread from Joust Joking, Sir Percy the knight’s favourite book.

Jane Blatt and Sarah Massini’s Books Always Everywhere features a diverse group of toddlers enjoying an equally diverse selection of books. Blatt’s simple but charming rhyming text combines beautifully with Massini’s cheerful, perfectly-composed illustrations to make this book an ideal gift for budding bibliophiles, especially in the board book edition. Published in 2013, this book deserves to become a pre-school classic.

The board book edition of Books Always Everywhere makes an ideal gift for budding bibliophiles

Timothy Knapman and Adam Stower’s Mungo and the Picture Book Pirates is one of three books in which young Mungo literally enters into the book he is reading to join in with the adventure. In this first outing Captain Fleet, hero of Mungo’s favourite pirate picture book, is so worn out after six back-to-back readings of his story, that he abandons his book leaving Mungo to take his place and rescue Admiral Mainbrace and cabin girl Nora from a crew of dastardly pirates. The second book in the series, Mungo and the Spiders from Space, was featured in one of my earlier PBD posts.

With the hero holidaying in another book, Mungo is obliged to take his place in the story.

In Lauren Child’s Beware of Storybook Wolves the traffic is going the other way, with characters leaving little Herb’s favourite bedtime book to join him in the real world. Published in 2000 (before many publishers developed their current anorexic obsession with diminished word counts) Child’s quirky, characterful 1,300 word text is accompanied by equally quirky and characterful illustrations in which a trio of villains (two hungry wolves and a wicked fairy) emerge to threaten poor Herb before being seen off by a fairy godmother.

When Herb’s mother leaves a book behind one night, he finds himself at the mercy of two hungry wolves.

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates sees Dog pursuing the dream of many a bibliophile – opening their own bookshop! Sadly, the bookshop's "grand opening" is a disappointing anti-climax. However Dog is able to find solace in his stock until trade picks up. You can watch Alison Steadman reading the book here.

Dog shows his love of books by opening his own bookshop.

Ralfy Rabbit loves books so much, he ends up stealing them to feed his insatiable reading habit in WANTED! Ralfy Rabbit Book Burgular by Emily MacKenzie. But Ralfy’s book-burglaring days come to an end when young Arthur spots Ralfy making off with a favourite book.
Ralfy Rabbit’s love of books puts him on the wrong side of the law.

Henry, the title character of Oliver Jeffers’s The Incredible Book Eating Boy also has an insatiable appetite for books – only he likes to eat rather than read them. The more he eats, the smarter he gets. Eventually the strain on his digestive system proves too much and Henry finds a more conventional way to feed his love of literature.

Henry’s bibliophilia manifests itself in a rather unusual way.

I hope this post has whetted your own appetite for some bibliophilic picture books! If you have a favourite picture book about a book-lover that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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Buy at amazon US

Saturday, 3 September 2016


I thought I’d write a short post to mark the fact that today is the 15th Anniversary of the publication of Bringing Down the Moonthe first Mole and Friends book I created with the late Vanessa Cabban

The book tells the story of a Mole who, enchanted by his first sight of the moon, attempts to bring it down from the sky so that he can possess it. His friends keep explaining that, “It’s not as near as it looks,” but Mole will not give up. 

One of Vanessa's beautiful illustrations for the book.

Bringing Down the Moon is my most popular picture book and has been translated into 20 different languages including Frisian and Gaelic. The Dutch edition, translated by Annelies Jorna, was awarded the prestigious Kiekeboekprijs award for the best pre-school book published in the Netherlands in 2003.

llustrator Vanessa Cabban and I met for the first time when
 we went to the Netherlands to pick up the Kiekeboekprijs in 2003

The book has been adapted into a Dutch puppet show, an animated DVD, an iPhone app and a terrific stage show by the Peaceful Lion theatre company in 2012

Henry Wyrley-Birch as Mole, John Boylan as Hedgehog and Fleur Jeffery as Squirrel in Peaceful Lion's stage adaptation.
Photo: Pamela Raith

Mole proved to be such a popular character that Vanessa and I created four more Mole and Friends books before she passed away in 2014.

In the final book in the series, Mole finds a new friend, Mouse. My favourite spread in this last book is the one below, the final panel of which shows Mole showing Mouse the moon in the night sky, echoing his first sighting in Bringing Down the Moon.

Although some of the books are currently unavaialable, I’m delighted to announce that Walker Books will be publishing new editions of the whole series in 2017. The publication dates are shown below.

Bringing Down the Moon • 2 February 2017

No Place Like Home • 2 February 2017

A Secret Worth Sharing • 1 June 2017

The Best Gift of All • 1 June 2017

Diamond in the Snow • 2 November 2017

Find out more about Bringing Down the Moon on my website

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