Five Great Books for Autumn


Autumn is my favourite season. The evenings are getting darker and colder and all the better to snuggle up to a book with (ideally clutching a mug of hot chocolate). Here are five top picks to fire the imagination and celebrate this wonderful time of year.

The days may be shorter but this fantastic themed sticker activity book will help you get the most out of them. Go on a walk through the leaves with The Gruffalo Autumn Nature Trail and explore the changing colours of the season.

The Gruffalo Autumn Nature Trail, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, published by Macmillan, is available now.

 A veritable classic about a skeleton family – Big Skeleton, Little Skeleton and Dog Skeleton – who live in a dark, dark house on a dark, dark hill and set out to scare on a dark, dark night…The first in the much-loved series by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, Funnybones is a fantastic book for a fun Halloween.

Funnybones by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, published by Puffin, is available now.

Another perfect character for revelling in Halloween’s rituals and superstitions is Winnie the Witch. In this instalment of the hilarious, long-running series, Winnie casts a spell to change the colour of her black cat Wilbur, so she can stop falling over him in her black house…But, of course, things don’t quite go to plan.

Winnie the Witch, by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul, published by Oxford University Press, is available now.

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, is a very special picture book to discover at any time of year but even more so now, as our imaginations are sparked by tales of ghosts and ghouls. An inspired story about a little boy confronting his fear of the dark, this is perfect for reading under a blanket with a trusty torch.

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, published by Orchard Books, is available now.

Last but not least we come to a gorgeous retelling of Hansel and Gretel, the ultimate frightening fairytale with evil witches and children lost in the forest. The story is a familiar one, but the atmospheric use of paper cut-outs and transparent paper will dazzle you.

Hansel and Gretel, by Sybille Schenker, published by Minedition, is available now.

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Interview: Josée Bisaillon

 

front-backJosée Bisaillon, illustrator of A Fish Named Glub, talks to me about her work.

You work in a lot of different mediums, but what is it you like in particular about illustrating picture books?

It’s really difficult to work on a picture book, to capture the right mood, to make the perfect characters, and to be consistent throughout the entire book. But even though it’s so much work, it’s a lot of fun.

I guess what I like most is to enter a different world each time. When I start illustrating a picture book, I feel like I’m building a house. I have to ‘build’ something that children and their parents will feel comfortable in. process2Using different mediums allows me to use different materials to build my houses. That’s why sometimes my work is different from one book to another. Sometimes I feel like the story would need more collages to be bolder, sometimes more ink and watercolor to make it softer, for example.

I love to think that there are actually real children around the world that are going to enjoy my work. It’s so gratifying, and it still feels like a dream come true.

You’ve recently worked on the Hansel and Gretel story for a Korean picture book (images below). What do you think the continuing appeal of fairy tales is? Is your approach to illustrating a well known tale different to working with original material?

I don’t know what we like so much about the old fairy tales. They are always a bit scarier and my kids love them. Maybe we like them because it brings back good memories, or because they are just really well written.

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When I began working on Hansel and Gretel, I was very honoured, but I was petrified. It was like touching a sacred story. It has been illustrated so many times that I was afraid of adding nothing new to the story. I looked at a lot (and I mean a lot) of illustrations from previous versions of Hansel and Gretel and I felt overwhelmed by them, so I decided not to look at them anymore and I began sketching and trying to illustrating this as if it was a brand new story. I made it with my style and my vision, and I think it worked in the end.

How important was reading to you when you were growing up?

I remember going to the library and coming back home with a ton of books, but apart from that I don’t recall my parents reading to me, even though I’m sure they did. There were always books in my house. When I was a teenager my favourites were The Babysitters Club books and gamebooks (choose your own adventure books). I still read every day before going to bed.

How important is reading to your own children?

It’s really, really important. My husband and I began reading to them when they were very young, around 2 or 3 months. I don’t know if it’s because of that, but the three of them really enjoy picture books. They help to develop their creativity, their vocabulary and their patience. They always ask for a story, we have to read to them before bed, and I love it.

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