Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday 5 November 2016

Thinking of Quentin Blake

Join Patsy as she investigates the endearing, comical and whimsical work of Quentin Blake in a newly published tale from the pen of Beatrix Potter.

Browsing in bookshops is always a good way to spend an idle hour or two, especially if you can buy a coffee and enjoy it while you’re there!

Recently I was browsing in this way when my eyes fell upon a largish picture-book carrying the name of Beatrix Potter. I was struck by the size of the book initially (the books in my Potter collection are sized 11 cm by 14.5 cm, and this was much larger). So I picked up a copy to examine it further and, of course, just had to buy it! It was published in 2016, and illustrated not by Beatrix herself but by QuentinBlake, and bears the title Kitty-in-boots.

I wonder why Beatrix did not publish this tale in 1914 when it was completed; I don’t think we’ll ever know, but I can think of several possibilities. Quentin fantasises that she was keeping it for him…..

Be that as it may, it’s rather fun to compare the look of the original characters with the same ones in Quentin’s iconoclastic version – Mrs Tiggy-winkle and Peter Rabbit, to begin with.

I have a few other books illustrated by Quentin which I have particularly enjoyed. One (The boy in the Dress, written by David Walliams) is very modern in text and fits well with the Blake ‘look’ – published in 2008.

Another, The Quentin Blake Book of Nonsense Stories, is less straightforward - but still very engaging. Quentin selected the stories for the collection (published 1996), and to my mind it’s an extremely individualistic selection. I was not surprised to find Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll in the list of authors; but it’s rather confronting to see Jane Austen and Noel Coward featured as well. But the stories by Jane and Noel were the ones I read first - to see if I could agree with his selection of them as nonsense stories, of course!

Nonsense these stories definitely are, and together they make a great read-aloud selection.

Patsy Jones
CBCA(Tas) treasurer, retired librarian, retired teacher

From the editor: I was privileged to catch two Quentin Blake exhibitions in a recent trip to England. The BFG inPictures and Seven Kinds of Magic coinciding at the House of Illustration. Illustrations from The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots are on show at the same venue until late February 2017; unfortunately this exhibition commenced after my departure. 

Are you a fan of Quentin Blake’s work? Why not share a favourite title that he has brought to life?

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