There have been some wonderful illustrated books published already this year but one of the highlights of 2021 is still to come—and there’s now only a short time (a month) to wait. Following on from last year’s landmark, illustrated Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
comes Chris Ridell’s Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There (publishing 24 June and available for pre-order). If you have one of these books, you will want the other…
Signed copies are available from Waterstones.
Both titles are published by Macmillan, the publisher who launched his solo career in 2004 at a time when he was already well-known as the illustrator for many children’s books (and as a political cartoonist), having begun his freelance life in the 1980s. Chris won the Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustrations in Pirate Diary, Journal of a Cabin Boy  by Richard Platt. He won it again in 2004 (Gulliver) and a third time in 2016 (The Sleeper and the Spindle) making him the first triple-winner of the award.
His work made a big impression on me in 1998 when Beyond The Deepwoods, the first title in the glorious Edge Chronicles, written by Paul Stewart, was published.
I was, and still am, an enthusiastic advocate for this series, the original editions of which are well worth hunting down. The series is still available in PenguinRandomHouse paperbacks, but I find the jacket illustrations rather ill-matched.
Chris was UK Children’s laureate 2015-2017 and continues to be a tireless promoter of children’s books and events, popping up here, there and everywhere to do live illustrations. He is, quite simply, a phenomenon, and we are all immensely lucky to be able to enjoy his prodigious output.
Coming in September: the paperback edition of Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Chris:
Also in September, and also by Neil Gaiman, Chris has done the illustrations for Art Matters, described as “a rallying call for all artists and creators”:
And in June, a week or two before Through The Looking Glass, comes a fresh edition of My Little Book Of Big Freedoms: The Human Rights Act In Pictures, published in association with Amnesty International
And that’s not all [see the Q&A].
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember admiring?
The first illustration I was pleased with was an oil pastel study of the wizard Gandalf that I drew when I was 8. My mother framed it and it is still on her wall.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland–I used to copy the frontispiece of the White Rabbit obsessively.
Who inspires you today?
E. H. Shepherd, William Heath Robinson, Robin Searle and Arthur Rackham are great inspirations. Shaun Tan and Levi Pinfold are two contemporary illustrators whose work I love.
Did you study art/illustration?
I studied at Brighton Polytechnic Art School from 1981-84.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
A well-sharpened Conté Pastel Pencil.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
What software/apps do you use?
I don’t work digitally—just ink, paint and paper.
What was your first commission?
My first commission was The Book Of Giants by Sarah Hayes published by Walker Books for Sainsburys.
What are you working on at the moment?
Twitter or Instagram? Instagram because I love pictures.
Coffee or tea? Coffee.
Grape or grain? Grape.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
What do you listen to when you are working? Radio 3.
This is a regular weekend feature, publishing every Saturday.
ACHUKA Book of the Day 14 May 2021
Digby David slammed the door,
and dumped his bag upon the floor.
“Daddy! I DEMAND a pet,
Why have I not got one yet?”
Digby David wants a pet, but not just any pet – it has to be TWICE as big as Reuben’s guinea pig and even better than Lily Jean’s cat. Digby David’s Daddy does what he’s told, and soon Digby has a guinea pig, which he loves with all his heart… for half a day. Digby demands bigger and better, Daddy’s hair gets greyer and greyer, and when Digby’s dog gets boring too, he insists Daddy buy him… a gorilla!
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A hilarious tale with a ‘be careful what you wish for’ message, especially if you wish for a gorilla and don’t look after it properly.
Follow David Tazzyman on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/davidtazzyman/
Reintroducing London’s newest and greatest detective: Enola Holmes in this second exciting mystery (f.p. 2007) from the series that inspired the film starring Millie Bobby Brown.
Millie Bobby Brown Enola Holmes is on the run from the world’s most famous detective – her brother Sherlock Holmes. As she roams the dark and dangerous streets of London disguised as a doctor’s secretary called Miss Ivy Meshle, Enola is reminded more and more that her name backwards spells ‘alone’. But when she finds a concealed cache of dazzling charcoal drawings, she feels drawn to the girl who drew them. Only, that girl, young Lady Cecily, has mysteriously vanished. It’s up to Enola to find her, but false appearances can only last so long…
ACHUKA Book of the Day 13 May 2021
A boy lives in a remote, snow-bound village with his elderly grandmother. Their traditional way of life is threatened by the changing snow and ice which is melting more quickly with each passing year. When the sea-ice collapses while he is out hunting, the boy only just escapes with his life and is left stranded in the Arctic tundra. Meanwhile a girl is trying to adapt to another new school. Her father promises his new job at an oil company will mean they never have to move again, but not long after starting to work there his behaviour becomes odd and secretive. When their fates take a drastic turn the girl’s world collides with the boy’s and they find themselves together in a desperate search for survival, and for the truth.
The author’s previous title, Lost, was an ACHUKA Book of the Day last year.
Otherland is a dangerous magical underworld—a place where appearances can be deceiving and anything can happen. A world of gods, vampires, and fairies. It’s also… horrible.
When life-long friends Myra and Rohan discover that Rohan’s baby sister Shilpa has been stolen and taken to Otherland, the only way to rescue her is by taking part in a deadly game—three impossible challenges set by the Fairy Queen of Otherland. Win the game, and Rohan and Myra can go home with Shilpa – but lose, and they’ll be trapped in Otherland forever…
A darkly funny, action-packed fantasy adventure.
“You know, when you live in a time of progress, it seems that progress is the only possible way. The idea that everything we’d gained, all of those hard-won rights, could be taken away from us, and that open minds could be closed again? But then the Outrage happened.”
Welcome to England, where the Protectorate enforces the Public Good. Here, there are rules for everything – what to eat, what to wear, what to do, what to say, what to read, what to think, who to obey, who to hate, who to love. Your safety is assured, so long as you follow the rules.
Gabriel is a natural born rule-breaker. And his biggest crime of all? Being gay. Gabriel knows his sexuality must be kept secret from all but his closest friends, not only to protect himself, but to protect his boyfriend. Because Eric isn’t just the boy who has stolen Gabriel’s heart. He’s the son of the chief inspector at Degenerate Investigations – the man who poses the single biggest threat to Gabriel’s life. And the Protectorate are experts at exposing secrets.
“The artwork is enticing and rich, and readers will be happy to pore over the pages studying details like Grandad’s friendly dog and the textured backgrounds as they read and reread the story.” KIRKUS
“The illustrations are full of warmth, colour and joy, beautifully echoing the excitement of discovery and adventure. The depiction of a loving, same-sex relationship between Grandad and Gramps, as well as the different ethnicities of the main characters, ensure this wonderfully inclusive book reflects a range of experiences.” BookTrust
“Woodgate layers colored pencil, marker, and crayon-esque textures with digital patterns and techniques, making for a kid-friendly style that also spotlights queer iconography, such as rainbow flags and reclaimed inverted pink triangles.” Publishers Weekly
Celebrate love in all its forms, as Grandad tells his granddaughter about the adventures he used to have with Gramps. Grandad’s camper van is hidden away in the garage – now Gramps isn’t around any more, the adventures they shared travelling in it just wouldn’t be the same. As she listens to his wonderful stories, Grandad’s granddaughter has an idea to cheer him up…
Follow Harry Woodgate on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harrywoodgateart/
ACHUKA Book of the Day 12 May 2021
Blackwells Children’s Book of the Month May 2021
“A novel full of choices – a great selection to share with children aged 9-12 that will prompt discussion about what they might do if they were in possession of Lonny’s gift.” Just Imagine
“Thought-provoking, tense, scary and full of love…” BookTrust
“I love all of Kirsty’s work, but I think this is the deepest her exploration of human nature has gone so far, and I think it will lead to fantastic discussion within a classroom setting. I can’t wait to share Lonny Quicke with Year 5! A truly thought-provoking exploration of human nature and the value of human life.” MissGibsonReads
A brilliant new novel about family, secrets and a terrible power from the author of The Middler (an ACHUKA Book of the Day last year, and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020)Lonny is a lifeling. He has the power to heal any living creature and bring it back from the dead. But he pays a price for this gift – by lengthening the creature’s life, he shortens his own. So Lonny has to be careful, has to stay hidden in the forest. Because if people knew what he could do, Lonny would be left with no life at all…
“An eye-catching lullaby for tough times.” KIRKUS
“A luminous book to help children at difficult times, Rain Before Rainbows has a simple rhyming text that reminds the reader that, despite the difficulties life can bring, there is always light on the horizon and the promise of a better day.” BookTrust
A girl and her companion fox travel together from a place of loss and despair, through uncertain times, towards the hope of colour, light and life. Along the way, they find friends to guide and support them. Together, they build a glorious future and discover there is a way out of the darkness, into the light of the rainbow.
A book with immense hope at its heart, this is a positive message for anyone who’s ever gone through a tough time.
Check out David Litchfield’s Meet An Illustrator feature…