A Good Time to Be a Quentin Blake Fan

h1 December 12th, 2012 by jules

Here’s a quick post, given that work is giving me the skunk eye, and it’s filled with art from Quentin Blake. (This post, that is. Not my work, unfortunately.)

If you’re a fan of Blake’s work, there were at least (heaven knows there may be more I’ve missed this year) three book releases in 2012 that will make you happy, and I’m here today to share art from them.

Pictured above is Blake’s Ebenezer Scrooge, post-epiphany and just before telling Bob Cratchit that he’s going to raise his salary. More on that below.

First up: In August, Candlewick released Michael Rosen’s Bananas in My Ears: A Collection of Nonsense Stories, Poems, Riddles & Rhymes. These poems were first published in the U.K. in different years under different titles—Smelly Jelly Fish and Under the Bed in 1986 and Hard-boiled Legs and Spollyollydiddlytiddlyitis in ’87—but are now compiled here for this U.S. release. These are poems divided into four categories, the names following the original book titles, with the exception of the section called “Smelly Jelly Smelly Fish.” The first section is sub-titled “The Breakfast Book,” and it’s followed by “The Seaside Book,” “The Doctor Book,” and “The Bedtime Book.”

The poems are, at turns, contemplative (in “Feeling Ill,” a child describes the sad ennui of a sick day) and silly, quirky fun (the titular poem, a moment of entertaining absurdity). There are several “What If …” poems (bed-flying, for one) and “Things We Say” poems (or, in one case, “Things You Say”), communicated via speech bubbles in Blake’s artwork. There are also several poems in each section about siblings Nat and Anna. It’s a handsomely-designed collection and perfect for that school librarian or teacher or parent wanting to start the classroom or day with a moment of poetry. (While you’re at it, you can read these poetry-sharing tips from Rosen’s site, which I just stumbled upon, read, and very much enjoyed.)


What Happens Next? If he steps on the dog … / If the dog tries to run … /
If the table moves … / If the parrot … / If the man up the ladder … /
OH, NO! OH, NO! OH, NO!”
– From “Hard-boiled Legs: The Breakfast Book”

(Click to enlarge slightly)


From a “What If …” poem from “Under the Bed: The Bedtime Book”: “If my bed grew wings I would fly to a thick forest / where there was an old broken-down castle /
that no one knew about, hidden in the trees. / And wherever I went /
and whatever I saw, / all the time I was in my bed.”

(Click to enlarge slightly)

Also released this year in the U.S. and originally released in the U.K. in 2011 is Quentin Blake’s Animal Stories (Pavilion Books). This a collection of fourteen short animal stories from John Yeoman, stories you should approach without expecting tidy, or even necessarily happy, endings and stories that are, as the School Library Journal review noted, told in the “wry voice of traditional folktales.” (Also do not expect source notes or info about the author, as they’re not included. If you want to know story origins, you’re on your own.) “[Blake's] expressive cartoon ink-and-wash illustrations,” added the SLJ review, “are characteristically endearing and work well with the text, which is a combination of deadpan humor and sheer ruthlessness.”


– From “The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise”: “There was a time when the hippopotamus was the most important animal on land. He had seven of the plumpest lady hippopotami as his wives and he swaggered around,
expecting everyone to treat him like a king.”


– From “The Monkey Palace”: “Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it was neither in my time nor in your time nor in anyone else’s time,
there was a king who had twin sons, and a very big problem.”


– From “The Young Leopard and the Ram”: “Since the jackal knew that the leopard would try to talk himself out of going back to see the ram, he decided he would have to bully him into it. ‘Look,’ he said, when he returned the following day, ‘I’ve brought a leather strap. If I tie one end round your neck and other round my waist, like this, we’ll be able to keep together, and you won’t have any reason to feel nervous.’”


– Also from “The Young Leopard and the Ram”: “As they approached, the ram lifted his head and sniffed the air. ‘My dear,’ he said quietly to his wife, ‘I’m afraid that these may be our last minutes. I can smell the leopard in the air
and I don’t think he’ll be so easily fooled a second time.’”


– From “The Impudent Little Bird”: “There was once a cheeky little bird who went to a tailor and ordered a little woollen coat. He chose the cloth and picked an attractive design. Then he held his wings up while the tailor took his measurements.”


– From “The Turkey Girl”: “Just pausing to recover her breath she slipped in through one of the covered ways that led into the dance court. As she passed along, all heads turned and she heard murmurs of astonishment at her beauty and
at the richness of her attire. But nobody recognized her.”

Finally, given that the holiday season is upon us, I’ll include some of Blake’s illustrations from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Blake did these illustrations years ago (1995, I believe), but Pavilion Books also re-released this here in the U.S. in September. (Here’s a link.)

Enjoy the art.


“‘That is no light part of my penance,’ pursued the Ghost. ‘I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.’ ‘You were always a good friend to me,’ said Scrooge. ‘Thank ‘ee!’ ‘You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, ‘by Three Spirits.’”


“It was a strange figure – like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those uppermembers, bare. … But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung
a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible …”


“‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’ Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free: free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. …”


“Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE. ‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?’ he cried, upon his knees. The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again. ‘No, Spirit! Oh no, no!’ The finger still was there. ‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe,’ hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’”

* * * * * * *

BANANAS IN MY EARS.. Text copyright © 1986, 1987 by Michael Rosen. Illustrations copyright © 1986, 1987 by Quentin Blake. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

QUENTIN BLAKE’S AMAZING ANIMAL STORIES. Copyright © Pavilion Children’s Books 2011. Text © John Yeoman. Illustrations © Quentin Blake. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Pavilion Books.

QUENTIN BLAKE’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL. First published (Pavilion Classics edition) in Great Britain in 1997. This edition published in 2012 by Pavilion Children’s Books. Illustrations copyright © Quentin Blake 1995. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Pavilion Books.





4 comments to “A Good Time to Be a Quentin Blake Fan”

  1. AAAAHHHH. Quentin Blake is my favoritest of favorites, yet I have not. kept. up. These are great!


  2. [...] http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2479 [...]


  3. Lovely gorgeous post. Now you have me all excited about the new releases.There is a Quentin Blake school here in Berlin. I have visited it a few times and saw the artwork he did for and with the children while he visited the school ( I never got to see him in person unfortunately). My favorite of his is Mister Magnolia. Thanks for this super special post!


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