Sunday, 11 October 2015

An exciting picture book commission: Writing a picture book to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital by Juliet Clare Bell

                                       The front cover of our book, illustrated by Dave Gray

If you’re going to work with children on a picture book project, one thing you can be confident about is that it’s not going to end up how you imagine it.

No preconceptions? Or so I thought…

I was overjoyed (and slightly nervous) when I was commissioned to write a picture book for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The brief was great: I would go and work in the hospital school with some children, engaging them in writing and reading for pleasure (I love author visits and working with children), find out about their experiences  -of being in hospital, and of their medical conditions (I am always fascinated talking to other people about their lives), and then write a picture book that reflected the lives of children in hospital (I love writing stories, and it was for an excellent cause). 

I thought I had no preconceptions about the book I would write; that I was starting with a properly blank sheet. I had deliberately tried not to come up with ideas for the story before I joined the children in the hospital school (hence feeling slightly nervous: I had no idea what I’d write but I knew that the as yet totally theoretical book would actually be out for Christmas). But I fully expected to be chatting away to the children about their experiences and challenges and getting lots of ideas for the story…

…only that didn’t happen. In the weeks that I was at the school, there were both siblings and patients. Siblings sometimes stay at the hospital when a brother or sister is very unwell and I soon discovered that neither the siblings nor the patients were interested in talking about why they were there. 
Which was completely fair enough. 
This was their reality, and their reality was really tough. They were more interested in doing things that took them away from what was going on in their lives rather than describing it to someone.

I was quite thrown by this, initially. However open-minded I'd been about the direction the project might take me in, I'd kind of banked on being able to ask children in the hospital what's your experience of being here? how does it feel? How would I be able to write the most genuine story I could write, set in hospital, without asking the children about their experience of it?

I decided to lighten up and what I soon found was that we could have a lot of fun together, playing around with words and sounds and with lists of the children's likes and dislikes. The original plans for my sessions went out of the window and I allowed myself to be led by what the children wanted to do. We didn’t ever talk about illness. We were silly. I wore elf slippers and told them lots of embarrassing stories about when I was younger. We read silly books with silly words, in particular Dr Seuss’s  Fox in Socks


                                                           (c) Dr. Seuss 

with the epic Tweetle Beetle Battle. If you haven’t read it, do.

                                                    Silly -and brilliant. (c) Dr. Seuss

                    Sillier -and more brilliant still. When I was younger, my dad would quote
                    from this battle whenever the mood took him -which was quite often...                                                                                                     (c) Dr. Seuss

The children came back to the Tweetle Beetle Battle lots –they wanted to take it in turns to read lines, and copy out some of the sillier words. With a bit of encouragement, they started to make up their own silly phrases. One day, one of the boys turned to me and said: “We’re going to make a book, like you do. Now.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I started telling him how long it actually takes to make a picture book from start to finish and that I was going to be writing a book based on the hospital and children in hospital and that it would be out around about Christmas (which was actually a really, really quick turnaround for a book from conception to publication). He wasn’t interested in thinking that far ahead, where life might be very different from now. “No,” he said. “We’ll do one now.”

And so we did. It was a diversion from the actual book project I was meant to be working on, but the children (and I –it was so much fun) loved working on it and less than two weeks’ later, we had our own books of The Hungry Skinny Hairy Lion.

Our book project made by the school children, a light-hearted, strange story, full of silly words and phrases that were fun to say out loud (using, which is brilliant for projects with children).

More from the book project we made in the hospital school.

And another one.

Themes for the main hospital book

The Hungry Skinny Hairy Lion was never going to be anything like the book I’d write for the hospital, but I learned some really interesting things by doing it (and had loads of fun along the way). The children were interested in good things that might happen in the immediate future; brave characters in stories, and very clearly, distraction. The more wildly I asked them to imagine (using strange props from my magic bag), the more engaged they became.

It wasn’t appropriate to use the same kind of silliness and absurdity for the commissioned book, but I learned a lot from making it. So instead of trying to find out more about the conditions of the children who I would be talking to throughout the hospital wards, I focused on finding out what individual children were interested in. I joined children on the wards playing with their superhero collection cards; I talked with children about Eddie Stobart vehicles and chatted with a toy dog that talked (very quietly, through his lovely child owner); we discussed the films and TV programmes and pop music children liked and didn’t like. In short, I had a really enjoyable and often funny time, talking with children about really normal everyday likes and dislikes. Very few children (in the short time I had to visit them) chose to talk about their disability or condition and how it affected them. 

Some really interesting things emerged from our conversations that were extremely helpful for me in getting a feel for the story I would write, most notably, the importance of:

·         Going outside. Some children were indoors for long periods at a time because of their conditions. Lots of children talked about wanting to go in the garden and how they loved being outside. 

                                                             Illustrations by Dave Gray

·         Distraction. The medical condition of the children was their reality and a fact of life. I didn’t spend time with children who were usually well and who had broken a limb or got a temporary sickness, who may have been happy to talk about something that's so different from their normal everyday life. All the children I spent time with had chronic conditions. So distraction from the sometimes tricky normality was what many of them were interested in. There were lots of conversations which highlighted the children’s great imaginations, and it felt appropriate that fantasy as distraction would become an important element of the book.

·         Family. Family was clearly extremely important to the children I spent time with. But this often included the idea of a wider family including other adults in the hospital (medical and non-medical staff, and the parents of other children in the hospital, most notably on the renal and dialysis ward, where the families had often grown up together on the ward) as well as fellow patients.

 And so I made some decisions about the book:

The story would not be about sickness or disability at all. Although the book would be set in hospital, there would be no mention of anything medical at any point in the book. The beauty of picture books is that you can have things happening in the pictures that are never mentioned in the text, which felt similar to my experience with the children and young people at the hospital, with children talking animatedly about the latest Fast and Furious film whilst ignoring being attached to life-saving machines. Being unwell and needing treatment was the least interesting thing going on around them.

However, the main characters in our story would clearly be unwell and have disabilities. We deliberately went for a front cover that celebrates Maggie, the main character, and her determination, proudly showing her walking frame incorporated into her fantastical imagining.

Fantasy would play an important part.
After working with children in the hospital, I met with children from some local schools who are used to spending time in hospital but are currently outpatients. These children, who had chronic conditions but were able to lead lives in mainstream schools and mostly out of hospital, were happy to talk about their conditions and also how they distracted themselves when they were sick and/or in hospital. One child told me how he’d distracted himself when he was younger and needed to spend more time in hospital. When he had to put on a mask at night which he didn’t like, he pretended that he was getting ready to go into space. His story stayed with me and became the inspiration behind Maggie.

Trying to get out into the garden would be an important part of the story.
This reflected what a number of the children I spoke with loved to do when they were able to.

                                                           Illustrations by Dave Gray

Family (in the widest sense) and friendship would be central to the story.

And so I set about writing the book. And revising. And revising. And revising. Again. 
And as an extra perk of the project, I’ve worked closely with the illustrator, Dave Gray, throughout. As other picture book writers will know, writer and illustrator normally have little or no contact during the making of a picture book (kept at arm’s length by the editor and art director) and so it’s been a fascinating process seeing the book come to life picture by picture with Dave's beautiful illustrations. 

                                                               Illustrations by Dave Gray

And it’s been much more collaborative than normal, where I’ve altered text when I've seen what Dave has done with various illustrations, and we've both suggested changes to each other's work. It’s felt very different from a normal author-illustrator relationship, compounded by the very much shorter than normal timescale for the book.

It’s been an amazing and challenging project.
I’ve met and worked with amazing children, parents and staff over the past six months and my life has been enriched by the experience. And I’ve loved the challenge: to create a book that children will relate to and enjoy, regardless of whether or not they have personal experience of sickness, disability or being in hospital; to make the reader appreciate that what might seem small goals to some children are really big goals to others; to portray children with disability and sickness who are rarely represented in children’s books, in a positive and wholly un-patronising way; and create something that will raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Magnolia House Appeal.

We’ll find out soon whether we’ve managed that, but it’s been a real privilege to be part of it.

For writers and illustrators out there, what have been your most interesting commissions? 
And I’d love to hear from anyone about picture books they like that have characters with disabilities. Please share your favourite books with us in the comments section below.

The Unstoppable Maggie McGee by Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray will be out on November 11th, 2015. Unusually, because The Wesleyan (Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s biggest sponsor) have absorbed all the costs of creating and printing the book, every penny of the £6 it costs to buy the book goes to the hospital’s Magnolia House Appeal. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Why we seriously need a new funny prize • Jonathan Emmett

The demise of the Roald Dahl Prize is nothing to laugh about

Like many involved with children’s literature and children’s literacy, I was dismayed to learn that the Roald Dahl Funny Prize was coming to an end.

The prize was launched in 2008 by the Roald Dahl estate, Booktrust and author Michael Rosen, as part of Rosen’s work as children’s laureate. The Dahl estate have said that they were withdrawing their support for the prize because it did not fit in with the estate’s plans for next year’s Roald Dahl centenary.

I was dismayed for a couple of reasons. The first reason is extremely selfish. I was an avid Roald Dahl fan as a child, Dahl has been a big influence on my writing and the books that I’m proudest of are the ones that - like most of Dahl’s – make children laugh. Although I don’t write books to win awards, if I could choose one adult-judged award that I’d liked to have won it would be the Dahl Funny Prize. When I met the 2011 Funny Prize winning author Peter Bently at an awards lunch a few years ago I contemplated holding my butter knife to his throat and forcing him to take me to his house so that I could steal his trophy confessed how much I coveted the prize. Now I’ve had to give up any hope of that dream coming true. *sobs uncontrollably into keyboard*

The second reason is less selfish. Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading report published last month demonstrated that, “above all, children want books that make them laugh.” When children were asked what they looked for when choosing a book to read for fun, humour was the most commonly cited factor by a considerable margin.

"Above all, children want books that make them laugh"
(Graph from the UK Kids and Family Reading report 2015)

Research shows that children that read for pleasure do better in maths, vocabulary and spelling than those who rarely read and they gain advantages that last their whole lives. The Kids and Family Reading report shows that if we want kids to read for pleasure, then we need to recognise and highlight the huge value of funny books. The Roald Dahl Funny Prize was the only high-profile book award that did this.

Funny books play a vital role in establishing reading habits at an early age and are particularly good at engaging reluctant readers. My son and daughter both adored Andy Stanton’s Mr Gum series and I’m always recommending them to parents who are struggling to engage their children with books. I don’t think many people appreciate how difficult it is to write something as absurdly funny as Mr Gum unless they’ve actually attempted it. As John Cleese once said, “it’s much easier to be clever than it is to be funny”.

Fortunately, I’m not the only person to feel this way. Once news of the Dahl prize’s demise got around, many people started calling for a replacement funny prize. Author Andy Seed suggested on Facebook that any new award should include separate categories for picture books, fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I love the idea of a funny book awards with multiple categories like the Oscars. You could have great fun with the awards ceremony by poking fun at some of the conventions of more serious awards. Instead of sitting there with a fixed grin, clapping politely when the winner is announced, runners-up could be encouraged to shriek “NOOOOOO!”, tear at their hair, wail inconsolably or shout insults at the winner. I’m sure that the kids attending would find it far more entertaining than a regular awards ceremony where the nominees are expected to behave themselves and I suspect that the authors and illustrators might enjoy it more too.

It would be hilarious to have an award ceremony where the runners-up were encouraged to voice their disappointment.

The recently created This Book is Funny website does a great job of waving the banner for funny books. When the Roald Dahl news broke last week, the team behind the site announced that they were already gearing up to step into the breach which is heartening news.

If there is a new funny books award, I hope that it will have a children’s vote to pick the winners rather than a panel of adult judges. Humour is largely subjective and there are no better judges of what children find funny than children themselves – as this second graph from the Kids and Family Reading report illustrates.

The best judges of what kids find appealing are kids themselves.
(Graph from the UK Kids and Family Reading report 2015)

We seriously need a funny prize, so – whoever organises it and whatever it's called – I have all my appendages crossed that we'll have a new one soon!

Jonathan Emmett's latest picture book is Fast and Furry Racers: The Silver Serpent Cup illustrated by Ed Eaves and published by Oxford University Press.

Find out more about Jonathan and his books at his Scribble Street web site or his blogYou can also follow Jonathan on Facebook and Twitter @scribblestreet.

See all of Jonathan's posts for Picture Book Den.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Ten ways I use panto for picture books by Abie Longstaff

I love pantomimes. I like the silliness, the crazy costumes, the audience participation.
I like the way they cater for all ages - the children and the grown-ups - so that the whole event turns into a family affair.

Many of the elements of a good picture book can be found up there on stage under the bright lights: 

1. A simple, strong story
Most panto is based on a fairy tale or a ballet. Whatever your story theme, remember to make the essence of the story simple and obvious for young children. At their heart, good picture books have a strong story-line.

2. Evil villains and good heroes
Panto is extreme in this way. The baddies are really bad, and the goodies are really good. Whatever your version of good and bad - make it clear.

3. Great character names
Panto is brilliant for outlandish names. Widow Twankey, Buttons the groom, Hanki and Panki, Carrie Bucket.
Mr Lovelybuns, from the Claude books by Alex T. Smith - one of my favourite character names!

4. Jokes for the grown ups
Don't forget the adult who has to read your book over and over to their child (poor thing!). Try and think of something to keep their interest, as well as the child's. It could just be something small in the background:
The witch's books in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Rapunzel
5. In jokes or references
Pantomimes are very clever about playing with a well-known genre - this can be a great source of jokes:
The Looking Glass magazine in The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White
6. Slapstick
Children love slapstick humour. It's simple and visual. So many picture books do this well - Dr Seuss, Richard Scarry and others were masters of the genre. I also love the Hairy Maclary books for this:
Dogs going mad in Hairy Maclary, Sit by Lynley Dodd
7. Audience participation (He's behind you!)
Lauren Beard and I spend a long time making detailed scenes for children to spot characters. Detail can create a talking point and encourage that feeling of sharing a story together:
The high street in the Fairytale Hairdresser
8. Dressing up
Who doesn't like dressing up? Panto is fab for fancy, frilly, gender-swapping, crazy costumes.
The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White
9. A big finale
In panto this is often a big dance/song. The page turns of the book should lead up to a fun or exciting climax:
The winter ballet from The Fairytale Hairdresser and the Sugar Plum Fairy
10. A happy ending
Awww. Almost every picture book has a snuggly, cosy, happy ending.
Rapunzel getting married
But surely it's not panto season already?
Oh yes it is!

The latest Fairytale Hairdresser is based on The Nutcracker ballet

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Illustration Notes? by Natascha Biebow

At the SCBWI picture book retreat this summer, we had a debate about illustration notes. 

Some quite well-established authors and illustrators argued that we should be allowed to include these to communicate clearly to the editor how the book should work. How else would we explain everything?!

We put the question to one of the editors who came to speak. "Definitely not!" she said.

Hmm... So illustration notes are a big no, no...

Oh dear, we all wailed. As authors who don’t draw, this is so hard! However will we communicate everything we’re imagining in our heads?  How will we be sure the editor “gets” our stories?

OK, deep breath.  Remember two things:  

1. Picture book editors know how to imagine the pictures. It's their job.

When you add illustrator notes, you are interrupting the flow of the words as the editor is reading your story. It is distracting and highly annoying.

Editors are skilled at reading picture book texts and imagining the pictures. They instinctively know how to match a really good story with just the right illustrator to add an extra level of detail, humour and excitement.

2. The pictures are the illustrator’s job
They don’t want to be told how to do their job . . .

When you add detailed illustrator notes, it is as if you are trying to micro-manage the illustrator. Picture book illustrators are skilled at imagining stories and scenes when they read a story. They don’t want to be told how it should look. Chances are, they will add layers to your story that you never even imagined. This is why picture books are so exciting to work on – they evolve.

Remember, too, that once a book is commissioned, editors will offer authors the opportunity to share their vision and comment on the roughs and artwork.

But, how, oh how, will you be able to get across your story clearly without illustration notes?

First, take them ALL out.  

Eek, I know, it's hard. Now, pretend you are all cosy on the story carpet, ready to hear a story read aloud to you. Read the story out loud. It should be attention-grabbing!

You should be able to hear it flow without the need for any explanation. The story has to be strong enough to stand alone. If it doesn’t make sense, you’ll need to add more context, more specific scenes, more vivid dialogue.

But what about the word count, I hear you wail! 

Yes, this is a challenge. You will need to add more words to get it all in, and then cut, cut, cut, so that each word works extra hard. If you polish your ‘show, don’t tell’ skills, and create vivid scenes so we can be there in the moment, you don’t need too many words.
Make up a small dummy book and read it aloud, looking at how the page turns work. This is a great way to check the pacing of your story, but also to see where you can cut unnecessary explanations and words.


So can I never include illustration notes? Are there any exceptions to this rule?

One technique you can try is to include any really important notes concerning the story in the cover letter to the editor. This is where, for instance, you can explain that your main character is a particular animal or that at the end of the story, there is an unexpected visual twist.

Visual irony: if your story relies on visual irony, for example, with the text saying one thing, and the illustrations showing the reality, you can include a very brief illustration note.

Page turn surprise: sometimes, surprises are revealed when a page is turned, in which case a short, bracketed note will be enough. 

Visual twist or wordless page: if your story relies on a visual joke or there is a wordless page, you can include a brief note to this effect.

Novelty books: in the case of novelty books, you can consider mocking up your idea simply in order to convey how the narrative works. 

One author who came from a marketing background, used to send me stick figure drawings as part of his manuscript – one for his idea of the cover and one for the visual twist. It was simple and effective, and it didn’t interfere with reading and enjoying the story. But, generally speaking, if your story is strong enough, you shouldn't need to send any stick figures, gimmicks or chocolates. Your voice should speak for itself!

Do you have any illuminating or frustrating experiences with illustration notes that you'd like to share?

Natascha Biebow
Author, Editor and Mentor

Blue Elephant Storyshaping is an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission.  Check out my NEW small group coaching courses!

Natascha is also the author of Elephants Never Forget and Is This My Nose?, editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Regional Advisor (Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How to write a bestseller – Unintentionally! By Mary Hoffman

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman,
illus by Caroline Binch
(25th Anniversary Edition, Frances Lincoln)
We're delighted that this month our guest blogger is award-winning author, Mary Hoffman. Mary's getting ready to celebrate something she never imagined would happen...

I am having a silver anniversary this month – no, not with my husband, but a whole slew of other people. My publishers, Frances Lincoln, are bringing out the 25th anniversary edition of my picture book Amazing Grace.

That little book has been one of the most successful titles I have ever written. It led to three more picture books (Grace and Family, Princess Grace and Grace at Christmas), three story books (Starring Grace, Encore, Grace! and Bravo, Grace!), two plays at the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, an opera in San Francisco and currently is optioned for a TV series.

The thing is: it was just another text when I wrote it. A 32-page picture book which, as I knew well by then, means 12 “spreads” (double page openings) in which to tell a story, beginning on page 6/7 and ending on page 29 or 30. In fact I wrote the first drafts of two other picture book texts the same day, back in April 1989. One was published, one was bottom-drawered and one was Amazing Grace.

I had a precious day away from the demands of three small children, the household and the constant interruptions that are the life of anyone who works from home. I had just been for a swim and, wrapped in a towel, I wrote, “Grace was a girl who loved stories …” 

Grace, illus by Caroline Binch

Not quite as momentous as “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…” but almost! The story flowed quite easily and I had always known that Grace would be Black. It was partly because I wanted to show her overcoming all sorts of obstacles and I thought, quite wrongly as it turned out, that sexism would not be as rife in in the 1990s as it was when I was growing up. So I added race as another level of challenge for Grace doing what she wanted to do.

When I had written the first draft – by hand on a lined pad, I took it home and typed it up and sent it to my agent, Pat White. I asked her to send it to my editor at Methuen, Janetta Otter-Barry, who had published several of my picture books and chapter books. But Methuen had just been taken over by Octopus and Janetta had left to be Children’s Publisher at Frances Lincoln.

Introduction to anniversary edition, with early Grace manuscript
She was looking for books to publish on their first children’s list and was pleased to receive my little text. So that was literary agent and editor on board; the next decision was about the illustrator.

Caroline Binch had painted the cover of my anthology Ip, Dip, Sky Blue (HarperCollins) and I knew she could portray ethnic minority characters. But would she undertake a picture book? Thank goodness, she said yes, she would like to try. After at meeting at Frances Lincoln’s offices in Kentish Town, Caroline set about finding a family to pose for the detailed photos she uses to base her paintings on.

I had put a baby brother in my first draft but the people Caroline found were a perfect three-generation, all female family, with no father on the scene. In retrospect, that was a gift. I wrote baby Benjamin out of the story (writers are great killers as well as creators).

Illus by Caroline Binch

Many other people on the team at Frances Lincoln contributed to the book’s success: Frances herself, who became a very good friend and whose sudden unexpected death in 2001 was a great blow, Judith Escreet, the Art Director, who has designed all my books for that publisher to date, Nicky Potter, who did the publicity then and is still doing it now for the anniversary edition, twenty-five years later. 

Amazing Grace became a huge hit in the US and was soon in the New York Times’ Bestseller list, something that was a great satisfaction to Frances with her first children’s list and to the rest of us.

But if you ask me how I did it, I can’t really tell you. I think that might be true of all bestsellers: that you don’t know when you are writing one. Only time will tell. The only advice I can give is to treat it like the Lottery and take the “if you’re not in, you can’t win,” approach. The odds against writing a picture book as successful as The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Guess How Much I Love You or The Gruffalo are enormous.

The one sure thing is that you won’t write a successful picture book unless you write something! The other ingredient I would add is a passion for what you are writing about and a belief in the characters and their story.
And who knows – you too might have a group silver anniversary in twenty-five years time. I hope so.
Illus by Caroline Binch

Mary Hoffman is the author of over a hundred books for children and teenagers. As well as Amazing Grace (which, with its sequels has sold a million and a half copies), she has written many picture books, including The Colour of Home and The Great Big Book of… series, with Ros Asquith. (All Frances Lincoln). She lives in a converted barn in Oxfordshire, with an Aga and three Burmese cats. Also her husband, with whom she has three grown-up daughters, three grandchildren and one grandcat.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

What's your favourite children's book? • Jonathan Allen

One of the things that authors get asked on a fairly regular basis, usually while taking questions at school or bookshop visits, is "What's your favourite children's book?". This is a tricky question for a lot of authors and/or illustrators, but I have always had a clear favourite. And the winner is. . . (Cue the traditional 'Great British Bake Off' ten second annoying pause. . .) The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay.

I was bought this book as a child, at the age where I was reading by myself, can't remember what age that was but I'm guessing 7-8 ish. . . Anyway, the copy I got was a paperback re-issue from the 1960's. Those of you anywhere near my age will no doubt remember the dubious quality of children's paperbacks of that era. The cheaper ones anyway. The pages would begin to fall out owing to the glue used in the binding being rubbish. Armada books were a prime culprit, Enid Blyton and Biggles books etc. But I digress. The copy I had suffered the same deterioration as the aforementioned paperbacks, with the addition of the pages going prematurely yellow. But despite this, The Magic Pudding enchanted me.

Now, a bit of history and biography etc. -

"The Magic Pudding is said to have been written to settle an argument: a friend of Lindsay's said that children like to read about fairies, while Lindsay asserted that they would rather read about food and fighting."

A wise man ;-)

And a significant artist of his time. Which was around 1900 onwards. At this point I would be expected to show examples of his work and wax lyrical about his artistic abilities, but as his subject matter was unashamedly and unremittingly erotic in nature, this isn't the place to do that. Google him when the kids are in bed or something.
He was a superb draughtsman. His line work was kind of Beardsley meets Vargas, with Beardsley being the line and Vargas the subject matter. His painting style was looser for the most part and his subject matter exotic in a sort of Theda Bara, Hollywood vamp, faux persian, fantasy style if that makes sense.

He was Australian, and lived in an interesting and scandalous domestic situation somewhere in the outback with several artist's models. See the film 'Sirens' for further information ;-) (and if you like Elle McPherson. . .)

Though his work was almost exclusively About the female form etc, he did do several recruitment posters in World War One. I can share a couple of those.

The bottom one is a good link to his illustrations for The Magic Pudding, featuring, as it does, various indigenous Australian wildlife.

So what's it about? - Briefly, in case any of you are unfortunate enough not to have come across this book and want a quick précis. Though, like most books, what it's about is so much more than the plot and characters doing this and that. . .
The Magic Pudding in the title is just that. A cut-and-come-again pudding that can take several pudding flavours and has the ability to reconstitute itself completely no matter how many slices are consumed. It's name is Albert, it can talk, and has serious attitude. A neatly attired koala, name of Bunyip Bluegum meets Albert and his co-owners Bill Barnacle - a bewhiskered sailor, and Sam Sawnoff - a penguin, on his travels in the bush and joins up with them. There are two rascally puddin' thieves lurking around, continually scheming to purloin the pudding. There is much singing, puddin' thief conflict and general rumbustuousness along the way. . .

There is also, social satire, acute observation and great dialogue. And best of all, wonderful drawings, done in that totally assured style that only someone absolutely at ease with figure drawing can achieve.

I'm going to cheat and paste my review from the Goodeads website, as it sums up what I love about this book, and it would be silly to just rephrase it to pretend I'd only just written it. And I'm lazy.

"I love this book. It was my favourite when I was a kid and it is still my favourite kid's book. I didn't know it was Australian when I was six or whenever it was I first read it, although the animals were all Australian and it was set in Australia. I didn't locate it anywhere geographically. It was book. The rules are different ;-) Books happen in 'Bookspace'. But now, I have to mentally transpose the dialogue into an Aussie accent, which is fun, and gives such bits of dialogue as "I'll take and bounce a gibber off yer crust!" a reason for being so exotic sounding. I find Bunyip Bluegum's restraint and verbose pomposity ( in a nice way ) so English that he has to have an English accent. Sorry. The drawings are superb. The malevolent pudding, the self important windbag of a rooster, the devious Puddin' Thieves, the bandicoot, ( "Take me melon, but spare me life!" ), Great Uncle Wattleberry bounding and plunging, ah. . . a brilliant artist enjoying himself! He dismissed his book as "Just a bit of piffle" which is disingenuous to put it mildly. Sorry mate, but it was the best thing you ever did. You disagree? Well be careful, don't speak too loud or I might just take and bounce a gibber off yer crust."

It is regarded as a classic in Australia, and I assume the rest of the English speaking World at least, though reviewers on Amazon tut-tut at the violence. . . But then they would, wouldn't they?

More recently -

"An animated feature-length film adaption was released in 2000, with John Cleese voicing the title role, Hugo Weaving as Bill, Geoffrey Rush as Bunyip, and Sam Neill as Sam. It deviated heavily from Lindsay's book, was critically derided, and was not a financial success."

I refuse to post a picture of the film poster or of any still from same as it is loathsome and just wrong. Though of course I haven't seen it. . . ;-)

Thanks for indulging me in this hastily written and not entirely picture book related digression.
What's your favourite children's book?