A Child of Books

h1 May 25th, 2016 by jules


Arriving on bookshelves in September (Candlewick) will be Oliver Jeffers’s and Sam Winston’s A Child of Books, and today I’ve got a little sneak peek. First, they have created one of those newfangled book trailer dealios (to be exact) for the book, which is above. (It’s always fun to hear that Belfast accent.) Also, I have a wee tiny Q&A with the two below, and best of all, I’ve got two spreads from the book.

The book is a celebration of reading and words and story and has been described as a “prose poem.” It features a sort of orphan, a young girl who is “a child of books” and whose home is a “world of stories.” She invites a young boy to join her on a journey in her imagination, one buoyed by a love of narrative. The art is playful, incorporating the text of iconic children’s stories (apparently, forty of them), and even, at one point, lullabies. There’s a lot for observant readers to pore over in this book. As you can see here, typographic artist Sam Winston was the perfect collaborator for this one. (“A continuing theme is his exploration of the hidden narratives found in canonical bodies of text.”) Here is a 2014 interview with Sam at typorn, and I’ve featured Jeffers’s work several times here at 7-Imp, but here’s my 2010 breakfast interview with him.

They talk a bit below about their collaboration on this project.




Jules: What were both the joys and challenges of collaborating on this project?

Oliver: This collaboration was not only a total joy, it was also extremely humbling. In addition to working with each other, Sam and I were also collaborating with all the classic texts that we included and drew upon for this project. We love the way that this book forefronts its debts to children’s literature. It highlights the fact that everything we humans create is necessarily a collaborative effort, built upon what has come before. This is also what made this project such an ambitious one, so the challenges were numerous. I am amazed we managed to finish in six years, as we could easily have toiled in perpetuity.

Sam: We both loved watching the project evolve. As neither of us took a direct lead, this meant we really didn’t know what was going to happen in this ‘world of words.’ Sometimes Oliver would introduce a new scene’, sometimes I would — with neither of us sure what would happen next. In that sense, it was truly creative. The challenge was finding the time in our schedules for the both of us to sit down and let the art happen. One of the hardest things about collaboration is being able to synchronize a space for us to make in — in this case, at the same time and in the same country.


“I have sailed across a sea of words to ask if you will come away with me.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Jules: When you were children of books, what were your favorites?

Oliver: I come from Belfast in Northern Ireland, where storytelling is a very important part of the cultural fabric. One of the first books that really captured my imagination was Gulliver’s Travels, written by a fellow Irishman, Jonathan Swift. It is widely believed that the infamous sleeping giant of Gulliver’s Travels was inspired by the Cavehill, a mountain overlooking North Belfast, which eerily resembles a face lying sideways (hence the most prominent cliff being called Napoleon’s Nose). As a child, I was deeply excited to discover this connection between story and my real-world surroundings. This link opened up new ways of seeing and thinking, unlocking my imagination to recognize the potential for storytelling in the everyday world around me.


“We can lose ourselves in forests of fairy tales.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Sam: A very simple answer to that is: The Little Prince, pretty much anything by Sendak, and Dr. Seuss. But I would also like to note that other books were also essential in developing ‘a child of books’ =- and they were colouring books, note books, and scrap books. It was in these pages where the stories really came alive. For children, it’s not just about consumption in literature; the creation aspect has to be continuously supported and nourished.


* * * * * * *

A CHILD OF BOOKS. Copyright © 2016 by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books London.

4 comments to “A Child of Books

  1. I remember that interview with Oliver Jeffers, Jules. Although I didn’t comment on it at the time, it was a staggering blog post — there was SO MUCH in it. And I gotta say, if I’d ever decided to pursue a second career somehow involved with kids’ books, Oliver Jeffers would have been one of the reasons.

    Thanks for posting this. It looks like a wonderful collaboration!

  2. Looks wonderful. Loved the trailer (& the accents)!

  3. I’m really looking forward to showing this one to our six year old who is just beginning to take off as a reader. For her, the written word is still very alive; language is a real joy for her. And unfortunately she has a dad that writes these wordless books with only pictures. So this one should make up for it a bit. 🙂

  4. Oliver Jeffers is one of my very favorite authors, I do an author study on him with my K-5 students every year. I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.