The Picture Book Challenge – June 2016.

This was an Instagram group using a daily challenge (thanks to @littleelfman) to share their favourite books. I came in at Day 8.

The chalkenge gave me a chance to highlight some of my favourite illustrators or writer/illustrators.  All up, I picked the following illustrators:

• Janet Ahlberg

• Alan Aldridge

• Jeanie Baker

• Gus Gordon

• James Foley

• Aaron Blabey

• Tohby Riddle

• Bruce Whatley

• Mitsumasa Anno

• Elena Odriozola

• Dale Newman

• David Macaulay

• Helen Oxenbury

• James Gurney

• Shaun Tan

• Quentin Blake

• Freya Blackwood

• Jen Corace

• Chris Riddell

• Maurice Sendak

• Alison Lester

• Roland Harvey

• Julie Vivas

• Alex Scheffler

• Bob Graham

• Desmond Digby

• Talus Taylor

• Graham Oakley


I wasn’t going to try and catch up on the previous days of the #picturebookchallenge but I just couldn’t resist Day 7: Author who illustrates. As someone who would love to be an illustrator who authors (might have to improve my gramma though) I have many favourite author/illustrators that I watch with envy/jealousy/fan-crush and here are 4 of Australia’s best. If I wasn’t stuck on Australian-made, @chris_riddell and @oliverjeffers would have been on my list for this one too! Oops – how could I forget Shaun Tan?


Day 8: Once upon a fairy tale.

This book is an absolute favourite of mine, winding together in beautiful rhyme fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. The genius team (sadly no longer) of Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Would possibly also have been my Day 1:Instant classic.


Day 9: Childhood favourite

“The Lion’s Cavalcade” by Alan Aldridge 1980. Absolute favourite – bought it myself probably about that year. Well, I say bought it myself but truth be told I was lucky to have a bookshop right next to my dad’s office, halfway between school and home, and I had a sweet deal where I could get a book for 50¢ “on lay-by” which basically meant dad had to shlep next door and stump up the rest. The illustrations in this book are incredible and SO detailed – remember this is a pre-digital age. Never saw another copy anywhere nor any other work by this illustrator.


Day 10: City living.

I was surprised how few books I own that feature city living. I shortlisted Shaun Tan’s The lost thing because it exemplifies beautiful industrial brutalism (ie Jeffery Smart) and would have probably chosen Peter Carnarvas’ Last tree in the city (except @newfrontierpublishing already chose that the other day). But I settled on Jeannie Baker’s Window. Taken as snapshots over a boy’s lifetime, Window shows how cities grow and creep over the rural hills until it envelops his house. Not typical urban city imagery perhaps, but still city living nonetheless.


Day 11: LOL (laugh out loud).

While the very talented and lovely (I’ve met him) Bruce Whatley has produced a stack of wonderful books my absolute favourite is the 2001 “Wait! No paint!” It includes a definite LOL ending (no spoilers) and is a great example of breaking the fourth wall, as the illustrator and his mishaps are part of the story. If you haven’t read this one, get hold of a copy.


Day 12: Wordless Delight.

Mitsumasa Anno is a Japanese illustrator and writer of children’s books, known best for picture books with few or no words. I have this one (a beautiful counting book) but I have a distinct memory of one I read when in primary school, that described the history of scientific understanding of the world (eg Gallileo). They really are a delight.


Day 13: Conversation Starter.

Hmm, potentially controversial topic this one. At the moment there is much debate about diversity, multi-culturalism, LGBT themes in children’s literature. But often religion stays off the agenda in Children’s books, unless of course used in a religious forum. As a Christian, obviously I have a vested interest and yet I may still wish that Christian stories – for some of us, as much a part of our own cultural history as many other topics – could be accepted within the mainstream. So my choice today is “The story of Noah” gorgeously illustrated by Elena Odriozola. Quite apart from it being a conversation starter, they are just brilliant illustrations with clarity and quirkiness.


Day 14: Black & white.

I have been looking forward to this one to give a shout out to my good friend Dale Newman, illustrator for “Kidglovz”. This is an amazing graphic fable written by Julie Hunt. It’s mammoth and beautiful and took 5 years to illustrate….. So any of you teacher/librarians out there, get a copy today and introduce it to your students.


Day 15: Fantastic Non-fiction.

My choice today is “The new way things work” by David Macaulay. The sketchy 3D diagrams are the best way to see and explain how basic (or even complicated) concepts work …and not just for children. I use it myself! Regularly (it influenced many of my pictures in Engibear). With all the current interest in improving STEM learning, this should be in every school library.


Day 16: Family life.

It’s nice to be able to pull out a favourite given to me on my 6th birthday in 1979. “A child’s book of manners” illustrated by the fantastic Helen Oxenbury. Family life ain’t always rosy and sometimes we need to be reminded of our manners (might get my girls to have a read of this one).


Day 17: Fantastic fantasy.

I really couldn’t go past James Gurney’s gigantosauric epic “Dinotopia”. The written story holds together but it’s the intricacy and depth of the pseudo-diagrams and architecture that wraps around it that truly astounds…. Oh and the dinosaurs!


Day 18: Work of art.

Shaun Tan’s “The Rabbits”. Enough said. It just is.


19: Rhyme time.

There’s good rhyme and there’s bad rhyme (shudder) and then there’s….Revolting Rhymes. This wonderful book by the team of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake just HAD to be my choice for today’s theme. It has rhyme so good it has stuck in my head for 30 years – such as their take on Red Riding Hood. “The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers. She whips a pistol from her knickers.”


Day 20: Makes you think.

“My two blankets” by Irena Kobald and illustrated by the lovely Freya Blackwood (oh, she’s so good!). I don’t own my own copy of this one, but probably should as it definitely holds place as the book that most recently “made me think”. Coming up to an election and living in an unbalanced and broken world, I am continually upset by the demonising of refugees. We have as a country a great capacity for compassion both at a personal level but also at a political level. But it needs an effort of self sacrifice that so few are willing to give. But with books like “my two blankets” we have a chance to educate compassion and acceptance to the next generation.


Day 21: Best before bed.

Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but today’s theme made me think of this sweet little book “Little Hoot” by  @amykrouse  and beautifully illustrated by Jen Corace. It tells the story of a little owl who wants to go to bed but his parents won’t let him. Well, he is an owl after all!


Day 22: An animal’s tale.

“A little bit of winter”. I’ve been waiting for this one to introduce you to the incredible @chris_riddell  and Paul Stewart. This book was my first introduction to them and I just love this little book about memory and friendship…and hibernation. We know the text by heart in our house. Oh and I forgot to mention Chris Riddell is currently the UK Children’ Laureate.


Day 23: Mend you heart.

A difficult challenge this morning as I can’t really recall a point at which I found a picture book mended a broken heart. But can understand there may be plenty of children who feel misunderstood – and find solace in a book that expresses their feelings. So today I’m choosing “Where the wild things are” by Maurice Sendak


Day 24: Gone Bush.

I absolutely had to split my choice for today’s theme, because I believe there are two writer/illustrators who understand the Australian bush equally well and better than anyone else – Alison Lester and Roland Harvey. They capture the beauty and the scrappiness of our wonderful land so well. So they have to share my stuffed wombat trophy I’m afraid.


Day 25: Outstanding oeuvre.

Once again  @littleelfman  you have set us an impossible task….to select just one person/team who have an outstanding oeuvre. So I’m going to cheat and do one international and one Australian. For my International (and somewhat influenced by the ridiculous leave EU decision I’m specifically choosing an English and German collab) I’ve chosen Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler. Brilliance literarcized.


Day 25: Outstanding oeuvre – Australian selection.

Shout out to @childrensbooksdaily (basically because I stole this image from her website -please don’t hate me) but my Australian choice is Bob Graham. He has such a vast collection but they are also so cohesive. Look out for Dads sporting earrings…. they are everywhere.


Day 26: Unsung Hero.

“Bottersnikes and Gumbles” 1967, written by S.A. Wakefield and illustrated by Desmond Digby. We read this when I was at primary school. It is a really Australian story – and while it is quite old itself you could call it an updated snugglepot and cuddlepie with an emerging environmental agenda. It also taught me from an early age how much I dislike nastiness of one type of people toward another. Most probably no longer in print so I’m glad we managed to grab a copy when the local library was having a clean-out.


Day 27: A slice of history.

“The tram to Bondi Beach”, by Elizabeth Hathorn, illustrated by Julie Vivas. This is both a slice of Sydney’s history but also my parents. My mother grew up in Dover Heights and used to catch this tram. Until they were removed in the early 1960’s, Sydney’s tram network was one of the largest in the world. I’m glad we have picture books that capture not just the big events in history, but also the little lost ones too


Day 28: Found in translation.

As a child my sister and I had a favourite book, “La Maison de Barbapapa” 1972 by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor. Years later my sister found them when overseas, but the original French. Luckily our cousin provided a written translation and we can now read them. They are wonderful quirky books. In this one they build a concrete house (proponents of concrete shell architecture -so 70s!) and battle marauding demolition machines.


Continuing the theme for today of Found in translation, I’m not certain if this lovely book, “Papa Albert”, was originally in French, but it is SO French that I just had to share it. Again, this was a fav of my Francophile sister, but I wanted to send it to some other Francophile friends – some of whom are in Paris RIGHT NOW being creative, fabulous and making me thoroughly jealous.


Day 29: An Adventure.

“Engibear’s Dream” illustrated by…me! I have really enjoyed doing the #picturebookchallenge (thank you @littleelfman very much) as it allowed me to explore from a personal perspective the world of picture books that I’m now part of. I have enjoyed becoming a children’s book illustrator and it really has been a wonderful adventure (OK, tenuous link to today’s theme). So here today is my book, of which I am quite proud. With thanks to the author Andrew King, @engaustralia and publisher @littlestepspublishing. If you want to know more please see the website


Day 30: Again and again.

For the final day of the challenge, I’m pleased to end with Graham Oakley’s wonderful “church mouse” series. These were my favourite books as a child and I would truly read them again and again. I still do. Thank you once again @littleelfman for running the challenge and while I have to leave it here I have really enjoyed it.