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Illustrated Children's Books.

Did anyone see the programmes on BBC4 about children's books and their illustrators? Most enjoyable and informative.  It introduced me to Mervyn Peake's marvellous drawings for "Treasure Island" which I had never seen before.  Among the books discussed was "Stig of the Dump" with pictures by my favourite Edward Ardizzone. Shirley Hughes and Phillip Pullman also contributed.  Excellent stuff.
And there was a very entertaining hour-long interview between Quentin Blake and Mark Lawson also on BBC4. Blake seemed a charming man. He was rather revealing about the truculent Roald Dahl.

I missed this, but given that this is on BBC4, I am sure it'll be repeated many, many times.

Mervyn peake's illustrations for Treasure Island are features in the hardback Everyman Chidlren's Classics edition. I think they're absolutely terrific: the picture of Blind Pew, especially, can still give me nightmares. Peake also illustrated Lewis Carroll's Alice books, but less successfully, I think: they're far too dark for the subject. Tenniel's pictures are still the standard.

I still have a copy of Stig of the Dump with Edward Ardizzone's illustrations. I remember reading the book to my children when they were younger, and was surprised by how dated it now appears - especially that chapter about theose rough boys from the council estate. But it still has a wonderful charm to it - enhanced, of course, bythose illustrations - andthat last chapter, where they go back to the Stone Age, is still quite magical.

Quentin Blake is best known for his illustrations to Roald Dahl, but I have a Folio edition of Don Quixote (the Smollett translation) illustrated by him, and his illustrations are wonderfully quirky.

Is that the series called Picturebook in three parts? If so I did see it and enjoyed it very much. Of course quite a few of the books featured were unknown to me, “Stig of the Dump” amongst them. Others like The Narnia Chronicles I first read when already in my twenties.

I love pictures and drawings and have bought books because of the pictures in them. One of these a book of Swedish fairy tales with pictures by John Bauer, a Swedish illustrator and painter.


I’ve been looking at A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas with black and white or coloured drawings by Edward Ardizzone on nearly every one of the 38 pages, as a present for a grandson.
It reads like a fairy story with descriptions of town life before wireless provided national entertainment. Dylan and the neighbour’s son would throw snowballs at the cats slinking along the back-garden walls; put sweet cigarettes in the mouth and pretend they were real; get the gang together and tramp through the new snow and say a herd of hippos had made the tracks. Go up to the big house and sing Good King Wenceslas.
As for presents, well there were Useful Presents such as mufflers and then Useless Presents like a machine that punched holes in tickets. But never a catapult!
There were always Uncles at Christmas who took over the front parlour where mistletoe hung from the gas brackets. And Aunt Hannah who drank port and laced her tea with rum because it was only once a year.
On Christmas night there was music, an uncle played the fiddle, a cousin
sang ‘Cherry Ripe’ and someone was on piano.  
The grandson will like the last bit – he and his young brother are learning the piano. His mum plays the cello so maybe we’ll have family music at these festive times.

A Child's Christmas in Wales is absolutely delightful, isn't it?

We had a holiday in Wales last year, and when we passed through Laugharne, we visited Dylan Thomas' house by the sea. I couldn't resist having a pint at the old boy's local.

Delightful indeed. So I have decided to read more Dylan prose or at least put some on a TBR list.
Our local library has 14 volumes of work excluding Under Milk Wood. Should I start with his Early Prose Writings?

I had heard the radio version of UMW but never read anything of his until I came across A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
It was mentioned on a recent invitation to a Victorian Christmas Entertainment which is held every year at a different Victorian building in Auckland.
Patrons are offered A Concert of Songs, Readings, Music and Comic Monologues – I imagine it is similar to a Dickens Night in the UK.
The readings are to be performed by a Welsh actor Ray Henwood who has recently returned from a visit to Wales.
(If you ever saw the NZ TV series based on Roger Hall’s play Glide Time, Ray was one of the main characters).
Anyway Ray had read A Child’s etc. at last year’s concert so this year patrons are promised further tales of Dylan’s much loved Christmas adventures.
I suppose there will be more from his childhood like A Visit to Grandpa’s or is there something funny about his adult experiences of Christmas written in one of the volumes?

I can't off the top of my head think of any prose I have read by Dylan Thomas apart from A Child's Christmas in Wales. I see from Amazon, though, that a volume of his collected stories is available, though I have no idea what these stories are like.

As for the poems and Under Milk Wood, they really do demand to be heard as well as read. Fortunately, there's no shortage of recordings. The famous Richard Burton recording of Under Milk Wood is a must-have, I think, and as for the poems, I don't think you can do better than th erecordings made by Dylan Thomas himself.

Much  of the appeal of Dylan Thomas comes from his very charismatic personality, so it's great to hear the man himself recite his works.

I would say much of the appeal of Dylan Thomas is that he has a way with words that few other 20C poets have - the magic of the sounds and shapes of words - the magic of the way they sound together - seems to surpass any other poet I have read apart from John Donne (and the other Dylan, of course, who is also a magician with words!).  I read very little poetry, and rarely even read those two, but they both send shivers up my spine, just reading the words on the page.  They seem to love words, and I can't separate the form from the content in their works - what makes them such great poets to me is their profound understanding of what words are and what they can be.

Thanks for the input Himadri - as usual you are spot on with your comments. I can get recordings of the poems in the library but sadly if I want A Visit to Grandpa's it has to come from the Stack shelves (archives). Same with the prose volumes in the adult section.
I shouldn't be surprised at the lack of interest in poetry - last week some educational body floated the idea of not studying Shakespeare in schools!
When I get 'a round tuit' I really must find the news item and confirm the seriousness of such a stupid idea.

The first two pages of A Visit to Grandpa’s & other stories are very funny – in the title story the grandson hears horse noises and thumping from his grandpa’s bedroom. He rushes in and finds the old man is pretending his bed is a bucking horse! When challenged he accuses the grandson of having nightmares. It turns out grandpa has dementia although it’s not called that in the story.
There are five stories from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, drawings by Robin Jacques and two radio scripts.
I enjoyed the latter.
One was obviously an inspiration for Under Milk Wood and the other was a lovely word picture of a Bank Holiday in the 30s. Some of the other stories feature either madness, death or talk of death. Very dark and not what I think children's stories should be about.
I am wrong, of course, as some of the present day stories seem to revel in violence and adult themes. I shall not be reading this book to my grandchildren despite the end paper saying the stories were chosen specially to appeal to the young(?).
My question mark!

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
The famous Richard Burton recording of Under Milk Wood is a must-have, I think, and as for the poems, I don't think you can do better than th erecordings made by Dylan Thomas himself.
Much  of the appeal of Dylan Thomas comes from his very charismatic personality, so it's great to hear the man himself recite his works.

I found this on the BBC Arts Message Board. Is it OK to post this on our Board?
Message 1 - posted by Janne2007 (U7303163) , Aug 31, 2007
The wonderful voice of Richard Burton. The lyrical words of Dylan Thomas.
I'm listening to Under Milk Wood for the first time in many years all due to an advert on the TV. An advert for a car being driven through the streets at night, where a section of UMW is recited by Richard Burton. (swoon)
I haven't got the book, something I need to rectify, but I have got the tapes and they are wonderful. The names of some of the characters make me smile, Willy Nilly Postman, Nogood Boyo to name but two.

Richard Burton's recording is far better than Dylan Thomas's.  Burton had the most beautiful voice but Dylan's grates on me a little.  

The writing is definitely beautiful though!
mike js

Did anyone see the recent item on the Guardian website (don't know it there was anything in the more paper-y edition), about new editions of children's books with full illustrations.

One children's book I very much liked (reading as an adult) is The Secret Garden, which looks very inviting here.

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