Here’s to the Voakes…

h1 February 10th, 2010 by jules

Here’s a quick sneak-peek at a picture book coming from Candlewick later this month.

I’ve previously declared here at 7-Imp my deep and abiding love for the work of British author/illustrator, Charlotte Voake. I always get a little hyper when she illustrates a new title. Coming here to the States in a few weeks (first published in the UK, I suppose it was, in ’09) is Steve Voake’s nonfiction picture book, Insect Detective, illustrated by Charlotte. Evidently, Steve is Charlotte’s cousin. He’s also written some YA titles and is the author of an early-chapter-book series I love, but more on that in a moment.

Pictured here is the book’s beautiful cover…

And pictured below is how the book opens. You can click to enlarge that spread, but if you’re in haste, it says: “Right now, all around you, thousands of insects are doing strange and wonderful things. But you can’t always see them right away. Sometimes you have to know where to look.” On the right side of the spread is a fun fact for entomologist-wannabes: “There are more insects living in the world than all the other animals put together — about 200 million insects for every single person!”

The rest of the book covers wasps and why their nests look stripy; ants and how easy it is to find their nests; solitary bees; the mad camouflaging skills of insects; earwigs (and other creatures who like to live under rocks who are not insects); ground beetles; and dragonflies. The present-tense, second-person text (“Sometimes when you think about these strange and wonderful things…it’s hard to believe that they could really be true”) is immediate and inviting. Charlotte’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations are—as always, which is why I adore her work—delicate and expressive. With just one quick, but committed, line here and one bold stroke of watercolor there, she conveys such tone. And quiet wonder. Each spread includes, in smaller font, a fact about the featured insect, and an index is included on the final spread (with the note “{d}on’t forget to look at both kinds of words—this kind and this kind“). The final spread includes tips on how to be an “insect detective.” Charlotte’s books all seem to have an oversized type, which makes them great for story-time or group readings.

I posted in ’08 about an earlier Charlotte-Voake title, and—obnoxiously enough—I put this below review excerpt back then in a large-sized font, because I think Booklist really nailed Charlotte’s appeal as a picture book artist. I’ll share again here what I wrote before, though I won’t scream it this time:

In their review for Ginger Finds a Home, Booklist put it well when they wrote, “{n}eophyte picture-book artists who cram the pages with saturated colors and busy details have a lot to learn from Voake’s economical approach, which makes it easy for young children to sense the characters’ emotions and to care about the story’s outcome.” … For their review of Ginger, they praised the “unstudied look” of her illustrations “that heightens the comedy of the situation.” Voake also really knows how to appeal to a child’s sensibilities, and for all these reasons she’s always been one of my very favorite picture book artists.

Steve Voake is also the author of the Daisy Dawson early-chapter-book series (as well as a lot of highly-acclaimed YA titles I’m sorry to say I haven’t read), illustrated by Canadian illustrator Jessica Meserve (whose illustration work I also follow with interest). I covered the first Daisy Dawson title here, back in ’08, and pictured here is last year’s Daisy Dawson and the Secret Pond, just as good as the first.

A great series for early readers. A real charmer. This link says there’s a third title, but perhaps it’s just not out in the States yet.

I raise my 7-Imp coffee cup to the Voake cousins, and—as a long-time fan of Charlotte’s work, in particular—I hope she brings us many more picture books…

* * * * * * *

INSECT DETECTIVE. Text copyright © 2009 Steve Voake. Illustrations copyright © 2009 Charlotte Voake. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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15 comments to “Here’s to the Voakes…”

  1. I’ve had my eye on A Little Guide to Trees and A Little Guide to Wild Flowers, both by Charlotte Voake for some time (available on amazon.co.uk). Her illustrations are indeed lovely.


  2. Yes, gentle and unstudied. These illos give readers room to breathe. That cover would SO make me want to open the book and dip in right away. Lovely!


  3. I also love Voake’s work (PIZZA KITTENS!) and am excited about this new title.

    But this reminds me, don’t you have a thing about bugs, Jules? As in, they make you run?


  4. Yes, Adrienne. But I can enjoy the Charlotte-Voake-illustrated ones. I will never be an entomologist.


  5. As I was reading the comments, I realized she wrote Pizza Kittens. I have to admit, i love her style and understanding on children.


  6. Megan, yup! She wrote that and the Ginger books. Oh how I love those Ginger books.


  7. OTTERS.


  8. Headin to the lib today to check me out some Charlotte Voake! Thanks, Jules.


  9. INSECT DETECTIVE? I totally want that book! Thanks, Jules. Lovely pics.


  10. P.S. Jules, you know James Stevenson’s work, right? I am reminded of his work by these illustrations.


  11. Yes, Susan! Good observation.


  12. Jules, When it comes down to it, I think a fair number of creatures are more appealing in children’s books then they are in real life.


  13. It is hard to come to a place that will always make me want to know more about another writer/artist. Woe is that I can’t pursue all these amazing works. But I shall try.

    Beautiful illustrations here. Lovely way to look at the world.


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