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#portraitchallenge: elvire de brissac

Thursday's #PortraitChallenge, over at StudioTeaBreak on Twitter, was Bernard Boutet de Monvel's oil painting of young Elvire de Brissac from 1946. She reminds me so much of my little sister at that age.

Here's the original. I came across it on a Sotheby's website and it's a lovely litle picture. The girl, Elvire, went on to be a novelist (but I haven't had a chance to explore what exactly she's written - saving that for a rainy day). You can see lots of other interpretations over at @StudioTeaBreak here.

north somerset teachers' book award

What a lovely review of The New Neighbours! You can read the rest of the article here. And you can follow them on Twitter at @JustAboutBooks

Keep reading...

Page 45 in Nottingham have been so wonderfully supportive about displaying my picture books! Thank you, lovely Stephen Holland! (They ship internationally, in case you're wondering.) :) You can browse my books and Philip Reeve's on their website, along with reviews for each! And you might spot pre-orders for a brand-new book popping up, too...

go easy on the soy sauce, iris!

Here's a little picture of Iris the mermaid getting sloshed on soy sauce. (Careful, Iris! You'll end up in a stir fry!)

Here's the picture I actually drew onto a card. I got the idea for the splattered soy sauce when I accidentally got my hand in the ink and messed up the picture.

It's actually a thank you card for Paul Gehl and Rob Carlson, who invited Audrey Niffenegger, Eddie Campbell, me, and another Paul around for a very tasty dinner, to take part in an experimental cookbook project. Everyone had a couple pages of a cookbook compiled by Russel Maret, and he wanted them to decorate, or splash, or annotate the pages, or whatever they wanted. And yesterday Audrey passed on from them to me one of the 250 facsimile editions of the printed-up book, Hungry Bibliophiles: An Experiment in Utilitarian Bookmaking, which was a lot of fun to see! Our dinner group did the most drawing and writing on the pages, we were all in fairly high spirits.

Here's Audrey's drawing of Eddie and me:

And this is the mermaid link, I think inspired by the term 'sassy salad'. (What is a sassy salad?)

I absolutely loved The Chocolate Factory Ghost, this first book in The Dundoodle Mysteries series, written by David O'Connell and illustrated by Claire Powell, published by Bloomsbury UK.

David and Claire weave a web of magic around an old Scottish mansion that young Archie McBudge discovers he’s inherited, along with his uncle’s confectionary company. But the McBudge family is wreathed in secrets, and all is not well with the business; a key mystery ingredient to the famous McBudge fudge is missing. Unless Archie can find it, he’ll have to sell out to his relative, the menacing Mrs Puddingham-Pye, with her nefarious, porcine little twins. The story flits back and forth from wondrous to sinister, as Archie and his new friends Fliss and Billy explore the magical house, and try to solve puzzles Uncle McFudge has planted, shadowed by others who would like to find the same prize.

Illustration by Claire Powell

David O’Connell has a wonderful way with words. His choice of names, in particular, made me smile: the nearby town of Invertinkle, Billy MacCrabbie who insists on being called Billy ‘Macabre’ because it sounds more enigmatic, the Beast of Glen Bogie, and a fudge estate butler named Tablet. When they find one of the clues, Billy surmises that ‘It could be the mystical hammer of Throb, the god of headaches and family holidays… Legend has it that he lives on the top of Bed Doodle, along with Frij, the goddess of damp clothes, midges and leaky tents’. I love the atmosphere he sets in the old house; it takes me back to cosy times curled up with The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, reading about Mary Lennox trying the various doors at Misselthwaite Manor.

Illustration by Claire Powell

Claire Powell infuses the story with beautiful patterns of dusty old books, Victorian tiles, gargoyles, bumpy cobblestones, wobbly bricks, uneven ironwork and mystifying machinery. Turning to each page with one of her full illustrations is like discovering treasure. Reluctant readers will find themselves propelled from picture to picture, and fans of illustration will want to keep an eye on this exciting talent. David is also an excellent illustrator (and has illustrated other people's writing), so it's fascinating to see what happens when he focuses on the writing side and lets someone else imagine the visual elements of the story.

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Sarah McIntyre

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