Congratulations to the five shortlisted books and their creators. The shortlist was announced at a special event held at Foyles last night and the final winner will be revealed on Wednesday 13 September 2017. The prize is worth £5000 and is named in honour of Klaus Flugge, founder of Andersen Press.
The announcement was preceded by a fascinating panel discussion. Martin Salisbury, Mini Grey, Emily Gravett and Michael Foreman were in discussion with Julia Eccleshare.
The three illustrator-authors were invited to explain how they had first got into creating picture books.
Mini Grey described herself as a picture book maker rather than an illustrator. She was first inspired to create a picture book herself while working as a teacher and falling in love with some of the objects in her book corner. As a result she went on to study for a MA in sequential illustration at Brighton University.
Emily Gravett also studied at Brighton, taking a BA in illustration. And as with Mini Grey she hadn’t always wanted to be an illustrator. Even though she grew up in a family of artists, it wasn’t an obvious career choice. But in the final year of her degree she wrote WOLVES which went on to win the Macmillan Prize and her career has developed from there.
Despite having seen Michael Foreman on many occasion at events over the years (his photograph appears quite frequently in the ACHUKA event archive) I had never spoken with him or heard him speak. His contributions to the discussion were particularly interesting. He told us he had grown up in Suffolk in a small coastal place where his mother ran the village shop. While still a boy he had been asked by a local art teacher to gather clay from the nearby cliffs to see if it could be workable. As it happened the clay was too gritty to be any use but as a result of collecting it Michael was invited to attend a Saturday morning art class. At the first of these sessions the members of the class were each given a sketchbook and taken outside to draw the real world. He has carried a sketchbook with him ever since (and withdrew a small one from his side pocket to show us).
Foreman reached adolescence in a time long before there were courses specifically for illustration so he had gone away (at the age of 15 I’m sure he said) to Art School. His father had died a month before he was born and his mother ran the shop single-handedly. Michael had two older brothers who were already earning money. Had that not been the case he is sure he would never have ended up at Art School.
While still studying Art, Foreman began creating ‘little drawings’ for the local paper. This quickly led to his working for the big Fleet Street dailies.
He was only 21 when his first child was born and supporting a family meant that he had to ‘get serious about illustration’ from the point of view of earning an income. He ended up travelling all over the world as a young man creating reportage drawings.
His first picture book, The General, (created while he was still young) was set in his own village. It had a pacifist theme. A fellow student had just arrived in England from Hungary and it so happened that one of the few people he knew was the wife of a publisher. The General was submitted to this publisher, and one of the directors was Sir Herbert Read, a pacifist, which helped ensure the book was accepted. And so began Foreman’s long and still flourishing career.
After the biographical introductions, Eccleshare guided a discussion which, amongst other things, considered the question Can a picture book change the world and should it even try? The two female illustrators on the whole thought not, valuing entertainment over didacticism. Foreman was much more willing to concede that some of his picture books did indeed have a message.
Martin Salisbury, also on the panel and one of the judges of the award, recollected that when he went to art school in Maidstone and was taught by, amongst others, Gerald Rose, children’s illustration was not mentioned at all. After graduation he became ‘trapped into being a jobbing illustrator’ and supported this with some part-time teaching. That part-time teaching has led to his running one of the major degree courses for illustration in the country, an all-consuming task. “Maybe when I retire I’ll do a bit of drawing again.”
The relationship between picture book creators and publishers (and those who work there: editors, designers etc.) was also addressed. Foreman described himself as “a bit of a mongrel”. He has never had an agent and has worked for a wide variety of publishers. He did say that working for Klaus and Andersen Press was “still like it used to be”. In most cases when he submits a book it has to be seen by a number of different people, in various departments, before a decision is made or changes requested. In the case of Andersen Press, Klaus is “still the man you see and the man who decides”.
Martin Salisbury said it sometimes feels as if his course is one big agency. Publishers always show big interest in the annual graduation show and the course also has a stand at Bologna.
Recent trends commented on included the rise of independent publishers (contemporaneously with the decline in independent bookstores) and the increased profile of illustrated non-fiction, especially oversized “big” books. Despite this, Salisbury says it remains quite a battle to persuade students to consider non-fiction.
There was a brief chance for questions from the floor which led to some interesting observations about the under-representation of different skin colours, both in picture books themselves and in the students on Martin’s course. He had earlier also commented that 90% of his undergraduates are female, a proportion reflected in this year’s longlist.
Last year’s winner, Nicholas John Frith, who announced the shortlist, was a man. This year’s shortlist is man-free.
Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube (Abrams)
Hannah is afraid of Sugar. But when Sugar goes missing, she overcomes her fears and makes a new friend.
The judges very much liked the inky line and Kate Berube’s considered use of the page and space. The story of Hannah is genuinely moving.
The Museum of Me by Emma Lewis (Tate)
A little girl goes on a journey of discovery to find out what museums are and what they hold in store, and realises that she’s curated her own collection too: the Museum of Me.
An interesting and visually exciting book, and Emma Lewis’s use of collage is very skilful. The mock-naïve illustrations are well done and the influence of Scandinavian illustrators is clear in the careful design and clean aesthetics.
First Snow by Bomi Park (Chronicle Books)
The excitement and joy of a little girl’s first experience of snow is captured in Bomi Park’s picture book.
Park conveys a sense of silence through her artwork, and makes a real emotional connection with the reader. The book feels both comfortably traditional and current.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books)
A mother and her two children set out on a dangerous journey, leaving everything behind to find safety and a new life.
This highly original book feels very new in style and content, and the interplay between text and illustration is superb. At times the pictures produce a real sense of menace, and it’s an extraordinarily effective depiction of war.
(Click each image to zoom)
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin (Two Hoots)
A darkly comic and original interpretation of the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood.
Delightfully funny, the apparently simple illustrations convey a great deal. This book knows exactly what it’s doing and does it in a very original way.
some content via The Klaus Flugge Prize | Official Website | Shortlist 2017.