I have always enjoyed Oliver Jeffers’ picture books, they are clever and a joy to read aloud which is vitally important if it becomes your child’s favourite and needs to be read over and over again! The illustrations however have always been what has really attracted me. They are obviously drawn for children but there is a quirkiness and sophistication that makes them incredibly appealing to adults as well. It wasn’t until I read Oliver Jeffers : the working mind & drawing hand that I realised why his books are so wonderful as he is first and foremost an artist with a distinctive use of words and handwriting. As Bono of U2 fame (with whom Jeffers has collaborated) states “the handwriting is his thumbprint, his genetic code”.
Jeffers was born in Ireland in 1977 and describes his early life as requiring to grow a thick skin and a quick mind:
I learned to talk my way out of trouble and to charm myself into it. I learned early on that I also had an additional arrow to my quiver: I could draw well. This came in quite handy for getting out of class so I could help decorate the set for the school play. It also came in more handy when the hard men of the school I went to wanted me to draw on their schoolbags and skateboards, and thus I fell under their protection.
Thankfully Jeffers survived school and has gone on to produce wonderful children’s books and now a beautifully illustrated book of his life and painting.
Another superb illustrator is Shaun Tan. His most well-known book The Arrival was written for young adults and is a wordless story illustrating the alienation of migration and immigration. Sketches from a Nameless Land describes the inspiration and creativity behind this remarkable story.
His latest book, Tales From the Inner City is written for children, but this is no easy read, it is challenging, thoughtful, and complemented by Tan’s distinctive illustrations.
World-renowned artist Shaun Tan applies his unique imagination to a reflection on the nature of humans and animals, and our urban coexistence. From crocodile to frog, tiger to bee, this is a dark and surreal exploration of the perennial love and destruction we feel and inflict; of how animals can save us, and how our lives are forever entwined, for better or for worse.
On a completely different topic…I was watching Project Runway last night (a guilty pleasure) and I was interested to hear one of the judges saying that modesty is now a fashion trend. Long sleeves, high necks, limited exposure of skin could be seen as a relief for many.
I was therefore intrigued to pick up a book by a young Muslim woman Dina Torkia called Modestly. This is a book that is hard to define, part biography, (she has an Egyptian father and English mother) part beauty guide, but also a book about modesty in Muslim culture, the decision to wear the hijab, social media and the pressures of being young and different. Dina Torkia is a very interesting young woman, her fashion sense is eclectic and beautifully put together, but it is her committment to her beliefs, and her obvious enjoyment (and at times frustration) with the fashion industry that makes her story so compelling.