Love Letters To Libraries: Jane Ray

Our next writer in our Love Letters to Libraries series, is the inestimable Jane Ray. Jane has illustrated over 70 children’s books and has worked with authors such as Michael Rosen, Carol Ann Duffy, Jeanette Winterson, Dianne Hofmeyr and Kevin Crossley Holland. She is IBBY UK’s nomination for the 2108 Hans Christian Andersen Award, alongside Melvin Burgess.

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Why I Like Libraries

A love of libraries was instilled in me early by my parents, whose own families had few educational aspirations and certainly no money for books. The local library had been crucial to their educational development and they were the first in their families not to leave school at 14 but to go on to Higher Education, and careers as teachers. So my mum took me and my sisters to our library every Thursday evening, teaching us how the library worked and how to find the books we might enjoy.

I have fond memories of that first local library of my childhood – the smell of books, the pink cardboard tickets in their little buff coloured envelopes, the rubber date stamp and the pleasure of leaving with an armful of new possibilities – Noel Streatfield, Tove Janson, Louisa M Alcott, Milly Molly Mandy, My Naughty Little Sister, Teddy Robinson… so many new friends!

There was no library at Primary school, but Secondary School had a wonderfully well-stocked library with an enthusiastic librarian and a selection of art books that filled me with complete joy! Here I discovered how a fresco was painted, the drawings of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci and the illustrations of Arthur Rackham.

There was a sense of growth, of independence, in being free to select books that developed my interests in art, that began to signpost the direction I might go in. (I do also have to admit here, with suitable shame, that for a while I was a part of a group of very noisy girls at school who loved being in the library but talked and mucked about and eventually got barred… not my finest hour – sorry Mrs Brooke!)

School libraries and skilled specialist School Librarians are a vital (and vanishing) part of every school. Occasionally, usually through the unstinting fund raising efforts of Parent Teacher groups, a new library is opened in a primary school – I have been lucky enough to be asked to cut the ribbon for a few of these and they are such a joy and cause for celebration – bright, airy colourful rooms, with cushions, pictures and books, books, books…

My first experience of a proper ‘grown up’ scholarly library was when I was writing my thesis for my degree. My subject was Oriental Puppetry and I found myself ensconced among the stacks of the Library of SOAS – The School of Oriental and African Studies. It was a little intimidating until I’d worked out how to use the cataloguing system and access the books I needed, but from the beginning I was enthralled by the quietly serious atmosphere, and a feeling that what I was writing and researching mattered.

When I had my first child we spent many hours looking at picture books together at Wood Green Library in North London, somewhere meaningful to go where you didn’t have to spend any money, where the whole point was to look and be inspired and make a choice and then take that choice home with you. All three of my children were avid library users throughout their childhoods.

It is vitally important to provide a place to study for children and young people who don’t have access to quiet space at home. The social gap in opportunity is widened by such inequality and public libraries are a huge help in bridging that gap. Specialist children’s librarians also help, by creating events in libraries with authors and illustrators that give children who don’t visit bookshops, an opportunity to experience books and their creators at first hand.

I work as Artist in Residence at a Refugee Centre and the local public library is of huge value to people who have fled their homelands with nothing. Here they can read, study, research, use the internet, sit in peace and think. The freedom this represents to someone who has fled repression of thought and education is incalculable.

Libraries are not just about books – they are local cultural hubs – noticeboards full of opportunities for classes, life drawing, language classes…

As a young illustrator, it was my local library in Crouch End that gave me and a group of fellow artists, all sharing a studio, the chance to exhibit our work for the first time. Professional contacts were made and careers boosted.

In these days of prohibitively expensive university education, public libraries have come to represent more and more a place where access to education and development is free.

As important too, in my view, is the quiet and calm they offer in a world which buzzes with constant ‘noise’.

Libraries represent the best in our society – education, enlightenment, information, peace, trust – and all for free. We should treasure them for we lose them at our peril.

Jane Ray, 2018

Jane’s latest book for Boxer Books, The Elephant’s Garden was nominated for the 2018 Greenaway Medal.

CKG review: A First Book of Animals – illustrated by Petr Horacek

Not one, not two, but three reviews in one day! We’re so close to he CKG winners announcement now – and so close to getting all our reviews of the shortlisted titles posted! Here are Lizzie’s thoughts on A First Book of Animals from the Greenaway list, which sees Petr Horacek shortlisted for his stunning illustrations.

What the publisher says…

Nicola Davies, the award-winning author of A First Book of Nature, presents a spellbinding treasury of poems about the animal world, illustrated in breathtaking detail by Petr Horacek. … From blue whales to bumblebee bats and everything in between, A First Book of Animals takes you all over the planet to visit all kinds of different creatures. 

http://www.walker.co.uk/A-First-Book-of-Animals-9781406359633.aspx

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What we say…

It’s impossible to tell which came first here – the text or the illustrations – as both work so perfectly together to create an outstanding work of vivacity and exuberance. Nature bursts from the page in abundance. Petr Horacek’s double page spreads allow Nicola Davies’ poetic text to dance across the page whilst his jewel-like colours and textured collages express the remarkable diversity of the natural world on a grand scale. Clever layout and design, with the occasional nod to works of natural history from yesteryear, make this a book which works on several levels with appeal across a wide age and ability range, A true treasury!” 

Lizzie

See Petr Horacek talk about A First Book of Animals here: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=4

View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/carnegie-current-shortlist.php

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/greenaway-current-shortlist.php

 

CKG Review: Under the Same Sky by Britta Teckentrup

With the latest in our series of CKG reviews, here’s Lorna’s take on Under the Same Sky by Britta Teckentrup, which has been shortlisted for the Greenaway Medal.

What the publisher says…

Written and illustrated by the award-winning Britta Teckentrup, this beautiful and heart-warming peek-through picture book celebrates the closeness of the world’s communities through their shared hopes and dreams

http://littletiger.co.uk/under-the-same-sky-2?filter_name=under the same sky&filter_description=0

under the Same Sky

What we say…

Britta Teckentrup has done it again, a beautifully illustrated book with a heart-warming and poignant message.

The book takes us on a journey round the world, looking at different animals from across the globe. From the African Savannah to the Arctic Circle, from mountains to forests and seas to sky. Throughout the book the clever cut outs and glimpses to the next page remind us that no matter where we are in the world, we all share the same moon, sky and stars.

This is a lovely sensitive book for very young children and a great way of starting those conversations about tolerance and acceptance; by demonstrating that no matter where we live or what we look like we all ‘dream the same dreams and we dream them together’.

Britta’s books always bring a happy tear to my eye and this one does not disappoint.

Lorna

See Britta Teckentrup talking about Under the Same Sky on the CKG shadowing website: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=9

View the full Carnegie and Kate Greenaway 2018 shortlists here:

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/carnegie-current-shortlist.php

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/greenaway-current-shortlist.php

What We’re Reading Wednesday: First Book of Nature – Nicola Davies & Mark Hearld

The book that I’m reading at the moment has become a true classic in our house. Published back in 2012, Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld’s A First Book of Nature, has become a staple of our reading year. The forerunner of this year’s Greenaway longlisted First Book of Animals (illustrated by Petr Horacek), the book journeys through the four seasons in a mix of poetry and lyrical prose, offering scraps of recipes, facts, fragments and observations to remind us of the wonder and diversity of the natural world.

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I’m blown away each time I return to it by the richness of the illustrations – colour simply floods the page (no white margins here) perfectly capturing the essence of each season. Mark Hearld’s collages are vibrant and evocative: a mixture of direct observation and characteristic nostalgia. I’m a fan anyway but they seem to me to perfectly capture the essence and experiences being related in Nicola Davies’ words.

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Review: Much Ado About Shakespeare – Shakespeare Day 23rd April

Much Ado About Shakespeare – The Life and Times of William Shakespeare: a literary picture book by Donovan Bixley

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April 23rd is Shakespeare Day so it seemed fitting that our ‘What We’re Reading Wednesday’ for this week should be Shakespearey. This is in fact a book that I wanted to nominate for this year’s Greenaway Award but the fact that it is a New Zealand import made it disappointingly ineligible. It is, however, a corker of a book that deserves some shouting about!

The subtitle says it all: ‘The Life and Times of William Shakespeare: a literary picture book’. Bixley says his aim is to offer a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s world: a play on words and pictures that attempts to draw back the curtain and shed light on the bright and exuberant world of Shakespeare’s life and times.

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Double page spreads combine words from the plays and map them on to historical fact/context. The fact that the known details of Shakespeare’s life are pretty sparse allows Bixley some fun with his interpretations (Macbeth’s ‘double, double toil and trouble’ accompanies the birth of Shakespeare’s twins). It is a work of speculation but a joyous one at that that allows us a gateway to this world.

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