Quentin Blake: Inside Stories


Illustration has found a new home near Kings Cross and this inaugural Quentin Blake exhibition is the perfect housewarming.

It is impossible to separate Blake from his magical and fruitful collaboration with Roald Dahl, and a good chunk of the work on show is from such classics as The Twits and The BFG. Alongside this though, we see storyboards from Blake’s own wordless book Clown and his riotously colourful illustrations for the Folio Society edition of Voltaire’s Candide.

For me, the highlight of the exhibition was a look at his work on Michael Rosen’s The Sad Book, an exploration of Rosen’s grief following the death of his son EddieNowhere is the power of Blake’s illustration and intuition felt more powerfully than in the sequence of snapshots of Eddie’s life, where the final frame on the page is left heart-breakingly blank.


In the last room there is a film of Blake in his workshop and a space for visitors to explore the books featured in the exhibition. Although the thoughtful curation of Blake’s work makes it more than worthwhile, I did wonder if more space at the fledgling gallery could’ve been opened up (there did seem to be additional rooms not in use).

However, Blake’s work seems so perfectly-formed that there is a real, rare pleasure in glimpsing the method behind it. I look forward to seeing what the gallery offers next.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories runs at the House of Illustration until 2nd November.


Freddy and the Pig; Wolf Man



Barrington Stoke have added two beastly good new titles to their Red Squirrel Books imprint.

Wolf Man, by Michael Rosen, takes us straight into the action. Wolf Man has escaped, and everyone is terrified, including the army, who are hiding in dustbins. Where will Wolf Man’s rampage end? The anti-climax – Wolf Man needs to use the toilet – will have readers laughing out loud.

As you’d expect from master storyteller Rosen, the story is well-paced and just the right amount of scary (I love the cut-out claw marks on the cover). Chris Mould’s frantic, furry Wolf Man is wonderfully hideous and the predominantly orange, blue and green palette is lively and distinctive.

In Charlie Higson’s Freddy and the Pig, Freddy sends a pig to school in his place and whilst Freddy becomes unhealthy and useless playing video games all day, the pig flourishes and becomes the perfect child. So much so that Freddy is sold to a vegetarian family where he can roll around in the mud all day and the pig goes on to graduate from University and become an MP. (Insert your own comparisons here.)

The moral that we don’t always know what is best for us feels fresh and not didactic. There are echoes of Anthony Browne’s excellent Piggybook – where the males of a household turn into pigs after behaving like lazy animals – though Freddy doesn’t quite go the whole hog. Mark Chambers’ illustrations bring the surreal comedy of the story to life, with lots of added visual details (I liked the pig-shaped pencil case).

Fun, thrilling, and with the attention to accessible storytelling that you’d expect from Red Squirrel Books.

Wolf Man, by Michael Rosen and Chris Mould, and Freddy and the Pig, by Charlie Higson and Mark Chambers, published by Barrington Stoke, are available now.

Happy Hunting

imageRead for RNIB Day and Walker Books are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by organising their very own mass bear hunt. (We’re not afraid…)

The Biggest Ever Bear Hunt will take place on Tuesday 15th July and will consist of a reading lesson with renowned author Rosen.

This curriculum approved reading lesson – created by education specialist Yellow Door – will be suitable for ages three to seven. It will be fully accessible to children who are blind and partially sighted, so that they can join in the adventure too.


On the day, over 1000 school children will come together at Charter Hall in Colchester in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record™ for the biggest reading lesson.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – which lends itself to boisterous reading and dramatic action – is the perfect choice for a big group to enjoy together.

Everyone can join in the fun via a web stream of the event which will be broadcast live at http://www.jointhebearhunt.com/rnib (also available on demand after the event).

In order to take part, children and their teddy bear friends are asked to donate £1 each. Sign up your intrepid bear hunters here: http://readforrnib.org.uk/fundraise/join-bear-hunt/bear-hunt-registration-form/

All proceeds will go to Read for RNIB Day to support the RNIB’s vital work. You can find out more about what they do here http://readforrnib.org.uk/about/rnib/.

Calling all schools, nurseries, mums and dads.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Are you coming?