I watched a lovely programme last night called Picture Books on BBC 4. It was the 2nd of 3 programmes about children’s literature and focused this week on story books for 6 –1 0 year olds. (Whether that sort of categorisation is useful at all is a debate for another time).

rabbit  toad grimm

It started with Alice and Tenniel’s ‘iconic images’ of her fantastic world, then on to Rackham’s equally atmospheric Grimm’s Tales bringing dark presences into children’s lives. I hadn’t noticed that E H Shepherd’s had drawn Toad, Ratty and Mole as well as Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. poohBy this time I was wallowing in warm nostalgia, induced as much by memories of my own and my children’s past pleasure as by the sentimental pastoral idylls Shepherd created with Graham’s and Milne’s words.

williamWe moved on to Just William and the wonderful Violet Elizabeth Bott whose threat to ‘thcream and thcream until I’m thick!’  I borrowed on more than one occasion (though not recently I hasten to add). Thence through Ardizzone’s evocative illustrations of Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain timand the sorrowful tale of Tim’s search for his lost parents with the satisfying resolution of locating a lonely woman who might – and, yes, was – his mother. How they hugged.

narniaLucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter also were separated from parental influence as so many child heroes are. I was brought up on the Narnia books and read them to my own children over and over. The concept of the portal through which one discovers other worlds is fundamental to many stories and always gives me a thrill of anticipation, even though now I recognise the heavy handed moral tone for what it is. Baines’ drawings now seem hurried but I can still recall the shiver of fear when I viewed the evil characters who participated in the sacrifice of the Lion.

We romped through Dahl’s anarchy, aided and abetted by Blake’s pictures of the grotesque characters who inhabit Dahls’ work.bfg


Briggs was hailed as one of the most subversive children’s authors ever with his grumpy Father Christmas who has altered our perceptions of that venerable figure forever. School Stories featured of course; in particular Murphy’s The Worst Witch. I prefer her Large Family for slightly younger children (and their delighted carers).witch1

changes1Anthony Browne is, of course, a hugely important modern illustrator and author. I think ‘The Tunnel’ and ‘Changes’ are exceptionally challenging with their surreal images; providing me with new perspectives every time I turn the pages.

The final book featured was new to me. It affected me profoundly. I bought it today and shall write more of it in my next post.