Today I am really happy to welcome Ellie Sandall to the latest edition of Fabulous Five. I have reviewed both of Ellie’s books with great pleasure (Birdsong and Daisy Plays Hide-and-Seek) and was chuffed when she agreed to take part. 

Ellie Sandall has loved creating pictures from a very young age and has a passion for children’s books (she keeps all her books in a huge wardrobe in her bedroom!). As a student she was highly commended in the Macmillan Prize 2006 for her illustrated story ‘Massivia McStodge and the Ghastly Ghouls’.After completing a foundation course in Art and Design, and a degree in Graphic Design at Bath Spa University, and she went on to achieve a Master’s in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.  While in Bath, Ellie got the idea for Birdsong, her first book, after listening to the very noisy birds in the aviary in Victoria Park. There were many different kinds of birds and they each made a distinctive noise. They seemed to be greeting each other and talking amongst themselves, and so she began sketching them and trying to write down the noises they made.  Daisy Plays Hide-and-Seek is her second book.

Five Fabulous Picture Books Featuring Birds
by Ellie Sandall

Birds are one of my favourite subjects to illustrate and I always feel drawn to images of birds whenever I come across them! I found it ridiculously tough to choose my top five picture books, or indeed my five favourite illustrators, so I have narrowed it down to five of my favourite books featuring birds. After much deliberation, they are as follows:

Jungle Party
Brian Wildsmith
Brian Wildsmith is one of my absolute favourite illustrators, and I have chosen this particular book as there are many beautiful birds to spot! Wildsmith’s use of colour is just wonderful, though my favourite spreads are those where a lot of white space is left, as they really allow the animals to shine. He uses a variety of brush techniques and creates a mixed media feel to the illustrations, which is something I can see in my own work. My absolute favourite spreads are the hyena walking on the melons, and the balancing trick by the fox and the genet – the texture of the animals’ fur is so lovely, and I love the slightly more muted palette of these pages.


This Little Chick
John Lawrence
John Lawrence was a visiting lecturer at Cambridge School of Art where I did my MA, and I have fond memories of listening to him explaining his technique and showing us his wonderful sketchbooks. The beautifully detailed woodcut illustrations for This Little Chick, along with the striking limited colour palette, make this an exquisite example of Lawrence’s workmanship.

Polly Dunbar
This story is so wonderful! The last page always brings a tear to my eye, which is an extraordinary thing for a picture book to have the power to do. It’s such a simple story, brilliantly executed- especially the depiction of what Penguin says when he does finally speak! I love the character of Ben, and I really love Penguin’s subtle and very amusing facial expressions. I am drawn to Dunbar’s illustrations by her use of little touches of pattern and collage, which is something I like to play with in my own work.

Sylvia and Bird
Catherine Rayner
Catherine Rayner is another favourite illustrator of mine. Her screen printed illustrations are wonderfully fresh and there is a sketchy feel to them which I really love. The gentle story of an unlikely friendship is beautifully told, and the limited colour palette of blues, greens and mauve works really well, allowing tiny Bird to stand out with her yellow plumage. I really like the textures on Sylvia’s scaly body, and the patterns and sense of depth created by the leaves in the trees. I find a strong sense of design in the pages of Rayner’s books, which really appeals to me.

Magpie’s Treasure
Kate Slater

Kate Slater is a recent discovery for me, and I absolutely adore her beautifully (and I imagine very patiently) crafted collage illustrations in this book. We seem to share a passion for both birds and patterned paper! Slater has produced some amazing large-scale installations of her birds (recently in the window of Just Imagine Story Centre) which are just stunning. She is definitely an illustrator to watch.


Thank you so much to Ellie for taking part and for this lovely selection. I knew of Ellie’s fondness for images of birds so really pleased she had chosen that as her theme. Ellie and Kate Slater are both nominated for Read It Again, the 2011 Cambridgeshire Children’s Picture Book Award for Birdsong and Magpie’s Treasure. Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza and A Bit Lost are also nominated, birds are definitely “in” this year  (see shortlist here)!