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.