Today I am delighted to welcome Sarah Massini, illustrator of the absolutely gorgeous Books Always Everywhere (see my review here) for the first Fabulous Five of 2013. Sarah has illustrated many picture books, including another book for Nosy Crow, Zac and Zeb and the Make-Believe Birthday Party.

Sarah Massini’s career has taken a few twists and turns over the years, but always slowly and steadily in the general direction of picture book illustration. After studying graphics at Manchester she worked as a corporate designer. Blue chip clients and projects included the Cancer Research Campaign, Cambridge University, stamps for the Royal Mail and Bloomsbury publisher’s Diana logo. But her passion for illustration and books lured her into children’s publishing where she worked as an art editor for a number of years. Marriage and motherhood meant a shift towards freelance work, but it also allowed her time and freedom to explore her own abilities as an illustrator. In the last three years Sarah has been working digitally with a scanner, a Wacom tablet and Photoshop; an experience which has enabled a more liberated style and method of working. This new style has been met with some considerable interest and success and she has become very busy indeed!
Five Favourite Picture Books
by Sarah Massini
The Story Of Babar
Jean de Brunhoff
I adored this book as a child and it was also a firm favourite of my son’s. I think we read it every day for an eighteen-month stretch! It’s a curiosity too. There is tragedy here that simply wouldn’t be allowed today. But the loss Babar experiences makes the reader feel instantly very compassionate towards him, and the book is never mawkish or sentimental. The illustrations are beautifully crisp and have all the detail that children love to examine; and the script lettering, large size and creamy paper make the whole experience of handling and reading ‘Babar’ a joy (in spite of the sad bits!) I’m sure he will go on enchanting generations to come.
Wuffles Goes To Town
Elizabeth & Gerald Rose
I’m an avid collector of old books especially from the 50s and 60s and they don’t come any better than this. I have beautiful printer’s editions of four different titles by the Roses and I love them all equally. The colours are vibrant and the line effortlessly free and loose but still capturing exactly the right amount of detail to lose yourself in. They’ve been inspirational too – they made me review where I was going wrong in my own work – directing me to work in a less tense, tight way. They are quintessentially British in every aspect, and it’s so sad that they are no longer in print.
A Hole Is To Dig
Ruth Krauss & Maurice Sendak

Another second-hand bookshop find, this is one of Maurice Sendak’s earliest books. He is the great doyen of children’s illustration isn’t he? But I mustn’t forget the text which is a lovely series of child centric observations: ‘Hands are to hold’;
‘A seashell is to hear the sea’; ‘Mud is to jump in and slide in and yell doodleedoodleedoo’. These are accompanied by line drawings of nearly 300 of the most endearing and animated babies, toddlers and children in any book I’ve ever seen. This book sits on my desk whenever I’m drawing toddlers and babies – my good guide and talisman.
The Happy Hocky Family
Lane Smith
Yet another one with a decidedly retro feel – sorry! I’ve been a fan of Lane Smith since his earliest publications and had to include him on my list. Why this particular book? Firstly, my son cites it as the absolute number one favourite book of his childhood (he’s fifteen now). It’s basically a series of sparingly worded mini stories about family life, which are sparingly illustrated in red, blue, black and yellow. It’s printed on gorgeous speckled paper and, like ‘Babar’, is a lovely thing to hold. This must be one of the first books (1993) that I think were illustrated using a computer. And that’s what I admire so much about Lane Smith – he is daring and innovative and clever and in a class of his own.
That Rabbit Belongs To Emily Brown
Cressida Cowell & Neal Layton
It seems to me that exuberant joy radiates from every inch of this book! The story is so cleverly wrought and so hilariously phrased – every word is perfect. Neal Layton’s illustrations are wild and anarchic and totally absorbing. It’s about adventure, kidnap and skulduggery, royalty and riches, and what it means to love a bunnywunny called Stanley. My absolute favourite picture book of the last ten years.
What a wonderful selection, thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time to share it with us!