As I write this, there is a fog out the window, enveloping Denmark (yes, we’re in Denmark and it’s a long story), except for the little autumn tree nearby, dropping it’s leaves at Nettle’s feet. I’m lovingly nursing a beautiful children’s book with autumn leaves on the cover, which has come all the way from Paris. I was so inspired and delighted by the children’s books I found in Paris that I bought two of them, which I am well chuffed to be sharing with you here.
Le Chasseur et la Baleine
“Le Chasseur et la Baleine”, or “The Hunter and the Whale” is illustrated by Spanish artist, Iban Barrenetxea. The story is a re-interpretation of Moby Dick. This book turned everything I thought about children’s books on its head.
I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with the thought of creating a children’s book. On the one hand, the idea of it fills me with glee. However, my mind always retorts with images of bright primary colours and cloyingly cheerful imagery. I prefer the subtly offbeat, elegantly subdued, and unconventionally cheerful. Not things I’d have ever associated with children’s books, until now.
Iban’s illustrations are poignantly sombre and exquisitely rendered in subdued hues. I also adore his playfulness with context and proportion. His work has reminded me that there are no rules, and even if there are, you can break them.
Le Carnet Rouge
Whilst walking along a Parisian street at night, I noticed a whole bunch of Benjamin Lacombe books in the dark shop window of a closed bookstore. It was an exciting moment, as it’s one of only two times I’ve seen work by an artist I’ve discovered online in the real, physical world. Luckily, next time we were in Paris we were able to drop by when it was open.
I was surprised to discover that “Le Carnet Rouge” (The Red Notebook) is actually illustrated by Agata Kawa and Benjamin authored it. It tells an imaginary story of the childhood of hugely influential, real-life English painter, poet, architect and designer, William Morris.
Many of the illustrations feature intricate, William Morris-esque designs. Check out this Google image search if, like me, this doesn’t trigger any connotations for you. I adore the quirky little details that make this book unique, such as the unconventional aspect ratio – the book is very tall and narrow – and the lovely decorative fabric spine.
These exquisite, unconventional children’s books have left me super inspired to create one of my very own. I’m playing around with the idea of dedicating all of next year to it. What an astounding thing to be able to say!
The only problem is, I’m not a story teller. Minor detail. I do happen to know a strangely large amount of people writing, or aspiring to write books, however. Maybe there’s a reason for that…