I am very pleased to welcome Alexis Deacon to Library Mice today for a Fabulous Fove focussing on animal picture books, to coincide with the publication of his wonderful  new picture book Croc and Bird (see my review here). I didn’t discover Alexis’ work via the much praised Beegu, but thanks to While You Are Sleeping, an unusual and slightly dark take on what teddy bears get up to at night.

Alexis Deacon graduated from the University of Brighton, where he studied Illustration, gaining a first class honours degree. In 2008, Alexis Deacon was chose as one of Booktrust’s ten Best New Illustrators. Slow Loris was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award and  Beegu was a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year and shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. As a writer, he collaborated with illustrator Viviane Schwartz on A Place to Call Home .
Alexis Deacon has also illustrated Russell Hoban’s new book, Soonchild, which has just been published by Walker Books

Five Fabulous Animal Picture Books
by Alexis Deacon

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
William Steig

All five of the books I have chosen are stories I had when I was small myself. I loved and treasured them all.  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble tells the story of a young donkey who unwittingly transforms himself into a boulder.  It features one of my favourite sequences in any picture book: three double spreads of a motionless boulder in the woods with the seasons changing around it.  Of course, we know it is Sylvester and we can imagine what he might be feeling inside. Every William Steig book that I have read has been brilliant but this one means the most to me.

Dinner at Alberta’s
Russell Hoban (text)  & James Marshal (illustrations)

This story was one of my mum’s favourites so she read it to us a lot.  I think one of the reasons we enjoyed it so much was that she identified with the long suffering parents and my sister and I identified with the unjustly persecuted Arthur, the young crocodile whose poor table manners are the starting point for the story.  “‘Between his table manners and his electric guitar that boy will destroy the world,’ said Mother.”

Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Charlotte Zolotow (text) & Maurice Sendak (illustrations)

I was fascinated by this book.  It has beautiful, ethereal illustrations for one thing.  But I was drawn to it because the character of Mr Rabbit was so ambiguous to me.  He seems to be part of another, more magical, possibly more dangerous world and with him as the guide the girl is able to explore that world a little.  It seemed meaningful to me at the time and still does now, that the mother, who they are looking for a gift for, is never seen.  I love the way that Mr Rabbit disappears into the darkness at the end.

Frog and Toad Together
Arnold Lobel

I have chosen this collection because the Cookies story would be a very good condensed biography of me. All the Frog and Toad stories are entertaining though, and they are often profound too.

Cannonball Simp
John Burningham

This story means a lot to me for two reasons.  It was a great favourite when I was a child but it was also the only picture book (along with Where the Wild Things Are) that I had with me at College.  It was repeated readings of this story that helped me to realise how I could go about making my own books.  It has a great title as well!


Thank you to Alexis for this amazing collection of classic yet unusual picture books and for agreeing to take part in Fabulous Five. It is always such a pleasure to discover books I have not heard of yet.