Today I am really excited to welcome a new talent in children’s book illustration, Simon Rickerty, to Library Mice for another exciting edition of Fabulous Five. Be prepared for a great selection!

Simon Rickerty won his very first award at the age of four (the Bedfordshire under-fives’ Children’s Book Drawing Award!) and has been drawing ever since! He studied illustration at the Royal College of Art and graduated from there with a masters in Communication Art and Design. He burst onto the children’s book scene with the fantastic Peas!, written by Andy Cullen and published by Puffin, and for which he was shortlisted for the ‘Best New Emerging Illustrator’ category in the Booktrust Early Years Award. Unfortunately  (which I reviewed here) is his second book, written by Alan Durant and published by Orchard Books. His third book, I Don’t Want to Be a Pea!, written by Ann Bonwill, will be published in August by OUP.

Five Fabulous Picture Books that are Fantastic Quirky Fun!
by Simon Rickerty

Because there were so many picture books I could have selected for this list, I decided to choose them from my own collection of children’s books to make it easier for me to decide. The following picture books made my top five list, because they are packed full of fun, humour and fantastic quirky illustrations, three elements that I love to see in a picture book for children.

Meg and Mog
Jan Pienkowski
This simple, but fun story about a witch called Meg, a cat called Mog and an owl ‘Whoo’ is called Owl, is one of my favourite children’s books. Meg and Mog fly off to a Halloween party, where they cast a spell that goes terribly wrong, turning all the other witches into mice. Pure bright colours mixed with bold line work jump from the page and draw you in. The main reason this book makes my list is that the characters are very easy for young children to draw or trace, offering another way that they can interact with the book. I can remember at playgroup drawing all the individual hairs on Mog’s body, it took me ages!

Polly Dunbar
This is another picture book that is beautifully simplistic with wonderful funny illustrations. It is Ben’s birthday and he gets a penguin as a present, the penguin says nothing and does nothing. Ben tries to provoke a reaction from it, but the penguin remains silent (the penguin’s blank expression is brilliant), until a lion appears and penguin bites him on the nose. The spread where the penguin talks for the first time is fantastic, and is one of my all time favourite illustrations. The penguin’s voice is illustrated as a huge speech bubble with quirky child-like pictures that depict all the events that have happened in the book, allowing you to do a recap of the story if you are reading it to a child.

The Getaway
Ed Vere
This busy picture book is a fast paced funny tail with big bold illustrations; it is loud, noisy and great fun. The story is about Fingers McGraw a notorious cheese thief who is on the run from the law. Pursuing the trail of the mouse through downtown New York is Detective Jumbo Wayne Jnr. The cartoon style illustrations are a mixture of bold line work and photos. The whole book has the feel of a comic strip and is packed full of fun. I especially like the way Fingers McGraw talks to the reader at certain point in the book, asking you to help him along the way, with a whistle. There is a page in the book that opens up to reveal a secret spread, which I did not know was there until one day I was reading it to my niece and she said “that page lifts up”.

Oscar and Arabella
Neil Layton
This is another busy picture book about two woolly mammoths called Oscar and Arabella and their adventure with a caveman. The story starts with the two mammoth friends snacking on leaves and berries, painting pictures, exploring caves and making new friends or not… Similar to ’The Getaway’, the narrative of the story plays out like a chase sequence as the two friendly mammoths run away from an angry cave man. There is loads of energy in the illustrations, they really create a sense of pace and movement as the characters try to escape. The artwork is very loose and free, and has a spontaneous, sometimes child-like quality to it.

The Best Cow in Show
Andy Cutbill & Russell Ayto
This funny picture book is a follow up to a quirky story ‘The Cow That Laid an Egg’. In this book we find that Marjorie the cow is going to enter her daughter Daisy in the baby cow contest. Daisy is not like the other babies, she is a chicken, so how is Daisy going to win the best baby cow show? The book is packed full of lively bright illustrations, that add lots of humour of the text. Like Neil Layton’s work, the quirky illustrations are loose and free and are sometimes combined with photos. There is very a dynamitic spread where the farmer’s wife’s head is drawn really huge as she is looking closely at Daisy the baby chicken, who has spied a wiggly worm.

Thank you so much to Simon for taking the time to take part in Fabulous Five and write this post for Library Mice. I am always chuffed to “meet” someone else who loves Polly Dunbar’s Penguin as much as I do!