3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

A Lion in Paris

Words and illustration by Beatrice Alemagna

Published by Tate

An oversized book with a surreal story of a lion curbing his boredom by touring the streets of Paris. Upon arriving in Paris to find "a job, love, and a future", the Lion is disappointed that despite his size (and the volume of his roar!) that no one seems to take notice of him. The simple story sees the Lion visit the many sights of Paris including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and River Seine. As the lion explores, he becomes more at ease and eventually finds his place within the city.

The story was inspired by the statue of a lion in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris and a curiousity to know why the Parisians are so fond of him. What a charming idea!

The absolute highlight of this book is the surreal and panoramic illustrations combining mixed media with collage and a great variety of drawing techniques. Alemagna's use of colour is very restrained but used beautifully to highlight the lion and a small number of features such as baguettes, rosie cheeks, River Seine and sparkling facade of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Distorted perspective, rough pen and pencil strokes, shading and photographic collages. The intensely detailed illustrations are charming and at times retro, reminding me of the work of Pop Art collage artists such as Richard Hamilton. 

The sheer size of this book and landscape orientation makes it really special and possibly a little awkward to hold. The book opens upwards and young readers will find themselves very up and close to the panoramic illustrations as they stretch to turn each page. This is a fantastic experience. Text is kept on the upper page of the book and the intensely detailed illustration is on the lower page.  The minimal text and clear focus on the illustration allows for the story to be enhanced in the minds of readers.

This oversized gem of a book conveys the feeling of being a stranger in a new city and is perfect for your imaginative little reader. This book is really quirky. I love it!  

0 - 2 years, Tate, Vintage Books


Words & Illustration by Oili Tanninen

A sweet story about a mouse called Hippu that invites a homeless dog called Heppu to stay with him. Together with many baby mice and a random chick, they enjoy a day filled with many simple and everyday activities. Little readers will be able to identify the ordinary activities on each page and relate to Hippu & Heppu as they go shopping, eat, play dress ups, go for a walk, watch television, have a bath, sleep and drive a car. 

Originally published in 1967, this book was republished by Tate Publishing in 2014. This book is so fresh and modern that it could easily have been created today with computer illustration. There is a lovely blurb at the rear of the book written by Tanninen that describes her inspiration and process for the book. It is lovely to read that the bold illustrations were created with collage, using torn and cutout  pieces of Japanese origami paper and Tanninen then filled in the images by drawing. 

The Finnish author and illustrator's three objectives for the book were as follows: The book had to be small and square and easy for a one year old to hold in their hands, cheap to print using only two colours (red and black); and the book had to tell a story with ordinary, everyday events that all children could relate to. 

Similar in size and equally bold, this book will sit well next to your Dick Bruna classics. A simple story with a sweet message and seriously cute illustrations. Perfect for the littlest of readers. 

3 years +, Contemporary Books, Tate

Grandma's House

Words & Illustration by Alice Melvin

I was so excited to buy this book as my little one loves to visit her grandparents and I am a massive fan of the British Illustrator Alice Melvin's work. 

Exquisite. This book is so rich with colour and detail that it is an absolute joy to get lost within its pages. We really enjoyed exploring the various rooms within Grandma's House and I am sure that your little readers will too. The book follows a little girl who often visits her grandmother after school. She moves through the house looking for her grandmother and every spread is a treasure trove of detail and it was hard for me not to feel nostalgic with every page turn. I could relate to so many of the details contained within an old period style home and the collection of objects contained within a home that has so clearly shared so much family history. 

At least one cut out window is included on every spread with a glimpse in to the room where you have come and a peek in to the next room. Children will love to peek through these doorways and guess what room is next. The attic is particularly special with a page unfolding twice to reveal an attic and a gloomy space filled with family heirlooms.

The level of detail captured by Melvin is extreme. It is wonderful to see beautiful stained glass windows, mosaic tiles, lush plants, and patterned rugs illustrated alongside the mundane details such as light switches, power points, rubbish bin and broom, wallpaper patterns, a metronome on top of the piano, downpipes and a garden hose. 

Melvin's illustrations reminded me of the work of my favourite Australian artist Cressida Campbell. Like Campbell's painted woodblock prints, Melvin's illustrations are so detailed that I get the sense that I am privy to the inside of their own homes or their childhood memories. This beautiful book is a special treat. 

6 years +, Pop-Up Books, Tate

Madame Sonia Delaunay

Paper Engineered by Gerard Lo Monaco 

Published by Tate Publishing

A couple of months ago, I spent an inspiring afternoon in London admiring the fabulous 20th century work of the late great Sonia Delaunay. A critical figure in modern art, and sadly under-recognised for her talent, Delaunay explored new colour theories to create the colourful, abstract and energetic paintings, textiles and clothes. 

Gerard Lo Monaco has created 'Madame Sonia Delaunay' - this sophisticated pop up book to coincide with the 2015 exhibition of Sonia Delaunay's work. The pop up illustrations are based on Sonia Delaunay's original work and have been reconfigured with additional illustration and text to create this playful new publication. For reference, the original artworks are reproduced at the rear of the book. 

Gerard Lo Monaco is an Argentinian illustrator, art director and paper engineer based in Paris. The book is really clever and his reconfigured illustrations convey the gusto and colour intensity of the original works. A physically small book with thick matte pages, it is so exquisite that it feels like an artwork in itself. 

This book is a lovely introduction for children in to the world of art and critical thought. Each image is accompanied by a rhyming verse that is both insightful and funny. Using poetry and pop-up illustrations, children are encouraged to critique the artwork and use their imaginations to interpret the illustrations.

Join me for a treasure hunt
in Africa’s wild continent.
Searching for the crocodile -
can you see his eyes and smile?
And those other wriggling shapes,
do you think they might be snakes?

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay continues at the Tate Modern until 9 August 2015. 

0 - 2 years, Vintage Books, Tate

The Apple

Words & Illustration by Dick Bruna

Published by Tate Publishing to honour the 60th anniversary.

I love this book, I have always loved this book. I had a copy of it when I was very young and I have remembered the striking forms such as the Rooster and the bowl of grapes for what is now decades. The yellow rooster is probably the earliest hero that I discovered when I began reading.

'The Apple' is Dick Bruna's first children's book and was created before he created his most iconic Miffy character. It is a beautiful and simple story of friendship. A red apple is taken on an adventure by a yellow rooster and it demonstrates how with the help of a friend you can have new adventures and experience the world from a different perspective.  

Bruna wrote and illustrated 'The Apple' in 1953 while he was working as a freelance graphic designer in Amsterdam. The dozen illustrations in 'The Apple' are distinct and easily recognisable as the work of Bruna with his use of bold black lines and minimal colours. It is likely that Bruna was influenced by artists such as his countrymen Rietveld & Mondrian and the Dutch graphic design movement, De Stijl.

Bruna's simple bold style is a design standard for graphic designers today, but was considered by many adults to be too simple in the 1950s when this book was first written. Bruna himself comments:

“I remember when I had finished The Apple, I had no idea if it would appeal to children, so I took some copies along to a local book fair. All the parents who came past my stand dismissed my book saying it was too simple, but their children pointed at my pictures and said “But that’s how I draw! And that colour green is just like my green!” So I thought maybe I was right, and I should carry on with this approach.”

When Tate Publishing republished this book in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary, the Official Online Press Office for Miffy issued a press release. It was really interesting to find out that Bruna originally published this book in a rectangular format. The format was changed to the smaller square format (still used today), to make reading easier for the small hands of his readers. 

Reviewed by Tom White

Contemporary Books, 3 years +, Tate

When I was Born

Words by Isabel Minhos Martins

Illustration by Madalena Matoso

Published by Tate

I am a VERY big fan of the work by Portuguese studio Planeta Tangerina. The graphics are simple, bold and graphically strong. Originally published in Portugese, the English translation of this poetic tale is simple & sweet. The book is a child's reflection on all of life's discoveries since they were born. An ode to existence! With kick ass graphics. 

Reviewed by Georgia White

This large branched tree endpaper is a superb graphic. A perfect start to this poetic tale of life, celebrating the wonder of our mere existence. Bold, strong and almost festive. Matoso's illustrations are wonderfully striking. Thank you!