With World Book Day fast approaching, we’ve been thinking about what makes a good story – especially for little ones who aren’t yet reading themselves.
The picture-book market has evolved a lot in the last few years, and even a cursory glance at the children’s section in your local bookshop will reveal a cornucopia of beautifully designed books. But words matter just as much as pictures, and sometimes stories can struggle to live up to the illustrations. When both elements come together, however, the results are joyous – especially for parents, who are sure to be reading their little ones’ favourites fifteen times a day for the foreseeable future.
To help alleviate the agony of dull or cliched books, we’re showcasing three talented picture-book makers who marry arresting artwork with compelling, clever, surprising stories – stories told in words that are a pleasure to read aloud.
Meet your new favourite storytellers…
Estonian illustrator and author Piret Raud was born into a family of children’s book creators, so her success in her native country shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
We love her offbeat characters, which include an empty house in search of a resident (‘The Story of the Little House Who Wanted to Be a Home’) and a songless bird who learns to speak through a trumpet (‘Trööömmmpffff or Eli's Voice’), and her illustrations, which riff on classic folkloric motifs while remaining completely modern.
Where to start? New work ‘The Ear’ (set for publication on 21 February 2019) tells the entrancing tale of a disembodied ear – that of a certain Mr Vincent Van Gogh? – in search of belonging.
Rome native Marianna Coppo says her childhood self was much drawn to the world of books and images, though she didn’t immerse herself in picture-books until she began studying illustration in adulthood.
We love her singular ideas and lush (but never laboured) illustrations. Her best-known book, ‘Petra’, tells the story of a simple grey stone figuring out its place in the world. You couldn’t meet a more enchanting chunk of rock.
Where to start? Her new book, ‘A Very Late Story’, is about a group of cute characters waiting for their story to begin. They’re listless and bored until one creative rabbit decides to make things happen more quickly. Clever and very meta.
Another illustrator born into a family of artists, Jess Love was raised in Southern California and lives in Brooklyn, NYC (she’s also a Julliard-trained actor). She’s new to picture-books, in that she published her first, ‘Julián is a Mermaid’, in the summer of 2018 – but what a book!
We love everything, from her sensuous, painterly art to the simple charm of her language. But most notable is the unabashedly celebratory tone of the tale, which follows little Julián’s attempt to transform himself into a mermaid – with a little help from his grandma.
Where to start? Where else? With Julián, his granny and New York City at its inclusive, riotous, sublime summer best. We promise you’ll love it.