A stunning collection of 100 of the most iconic and groundbreaking books of the past century shines a spotlight on a host of talented authors and illustrators.
Oooh, we do love a good picture book. And there are so many wonderful picture book creators using their amazing talents to bring us memorable stories. How could you possibly pick just one hundred?
That’s the imposing challenge that Prof Martin Salisbury has set himself. But then he’s something of an expert in the field of children’s book illustration. He’s also at pains to point out that his carefully curated collection is “first and foremost about good art and design.”
This is a visual feast for anyone who loves picture book art, typography and graphic design. It also gives a fascinating insight into the history and evolution of this exciting medium and its key artists. The criteria for a book
to make the cut? Quite simply, it
has to have the ‘wow’ factor
Set out in chronological order, the collection starts with The Slant Book by Peter Newell, a innovative quirky book that plays with its rhomboid shape to show a baby’s pushchair slipping into various precarious situations with comical effects, and ends with a playful rendition of a popular children’s rhyme Zoom Zoom Zoom by Katherina Monolessou. In between, there is a wealth of wonderful books that have captivated and enchanted generations of children and adults over the years. And it’s fun to see how many books you (and your child) might be familiar with, as well as discovering some that you’d like to put on your wish-list.
The book showcases a variety of styles from graphic art of Soviet Russian Constructivists and Italian Futurists to gentle neo-Romantic watercolours of Chihiro Iwasaki, as artists play with palette and printing techniques.
There are some familiar faces, too, from Babar and Curious George to Orlando the Marmalade Cat and Peter Rabbit, appearing in a less familiar guise by American illustrator Leonard Weisgard, but still wearing his signature blue jacket!
Among the familiar artists are Ludwig Bemelmans and Maurice Sendak, who are noted not for their most famous creations (Madeline and Where the Wild Things Are respectively) but for a semi-autobiographical Hansi by Bemelmans and The Moon Jumpers, a wonderfully dreamy visual treastise by Sendak.
There’s a bit of publishing and printing jargon to grapple with – verso and recto pages for front and back and printing techniques, such as pochoir (the use of metal stencils for hand-colouring) – but that makes the content all the more informative.
The real joy comes in poring over the gorgeous illustrations and finding some familiar friends (Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer, Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back and the wonderful travelogue This Is New York by Miroslav Sasek), as well as discovering titles you may never have heard of.
Then, of course, there’s always the lively debate to be had about the titles that got away…
Fun fact It may not have made this list, but The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one of the world’s best-selling picture books, with a copy sold somewhere in the world every minute. Selling well over 30 million copies (and counting), it has been translated into 62 languages and – the ultimate tribute! – was celebrated by Google in 2009 with an Eric Carle-style doodle on the homepage for the book’s 40th anniversary.
Did you know? An undiscovered book by Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, is to be published in 2016 with illustrations by Quentin Blake. And why Blake? According to the publishers “Quentin’s energy, rebelliousness and humour were in keeping with Beatrix’s own artistic sensibilities and therefore exactly what this fantastic book called out for.”
Author notes Martin Salisbury is Professor of Illustration at Cambridge School of Art in Anglia Ruskin University, where he designed and currently leads the UK’s first Masters programme in children’s book illustration. Among his books on the subject are Play Pen: New Children’s Book Illustration and Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling.