These are some of our favourite picture books because they are either beautiful and/or unique. I only realised as I was putting this post together that three of these books have some connection with France.
Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson – Illustrated by Christine Davenier; edited by Susan Snively
Emily Dickinson is a poet my children didn’t take to very much. Moozle listened in when I was reading the poet’s work aloud a few years ago to her older (less than impressed) brothers and decided she didn’t like her either. However, I found this delightful book of Dickinson’s poems illustrated by Christine Davenier, who was born in France and lives in Paris. The watercolour illustrations in the book were the drawcard for my artistically minded daughter. So I read a poem, she does some art appreciation, we decide which pictures we each like best and then she does some watercolour of her own using the paintings in the book as a guide. The illustrations have made a difference in her attitude to the poems of Emily Dickinson and helped Moozle to appreciate her work.
Paris, Up, Up and Away by Helene Druvert
This is a beautifully designed, whimsical picture book set in Paris with the Eiffel Tower as the main character. It is marketed as a children’s book but the laser paper cuttings it contains are delicate and lace-like and would be appreciated by anyone with an eye for beauty and an interest in art and paper cutting.
‘Scherenschnitte’ is a term I was familiar with, which is the German form of paper cutting, and apparently Découper is the French form. This book takes the art form to a new level with the precision that the laser cutting manages to perform.
Wouldn’t it be nice to fly away?
Paris is full of things to do –
The Tower would like to see them too
The Tower takes off for the day
To watch the city work and play …
The author has another similar book: Mary Poppins, Up, Up and Away.
Vendela in Venice by Christina Björk; illustrated by Inga-Karin Eriksson
This is a short chapter, lavishly illustrated book that takes the reader on a journey through Venice. As Vendella’s father said, “Every child should go to Venice.” If you can’t get there just yet, this book will give you a wonderful introduction to the culture and history of this fairy-tale city. For ages from around 8 years and up. The Classical Kids audio, Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery makes an ideal accompaniment to this book.
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson; illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt
Set in Paris, Marguerite’s father works at illuminating manuscripts for the nobility of France.
My youngest daughter loves this book and we used it when we did Ambleside Online Year 1. Today she referred to this book when she was looking through ‘A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ for nature notebooking inspiration. Marguerite Makes a Book is lovely inducement for budding artists.
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
What is the definition of a picture book? About 32 pages with illustrations directed primarily for children? Did you know that the 2008 Randolph Caldecott Medal, the highest honour an artist can achieve for children’s book illustration, was given to the author of a 500 page novel set in Paris? So I’m taking the liberty of putting The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady in a post of picture books. There are about 176 pages (depending on which edition you get) of the most exquisite paintings from the hand of a woman who had a naturalist’s eye for detail combined with an artist’s sensitivity. Holden made her first entry in her diary in 1906 and continued to record the changing seasons, poetry, nature observations and her own thoughts over the whole year in this lovely book.
In 1976, Holden’s great-niece approached a publishing house with the original diary that had been passed down to her and the result was the publication of a ‘re-originated,’ full-colour fascimile edition in 1977. There have been numerous editions of this book and this is the hardback copy I have which was published in 2000.
Edith Holden described her English countryside but the beauty of this book is its inspirational value, and her observations of the natural world, even though half a world away, are relevant for aspiring naturalists wherever they might be. When I spend some time with this work I can’t help but feel motivated to imitate what she has done.
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A Child of Books resulted when the children’s author and illustrator, Oliver Jeffers, and Sam Winston, a typographical artist, combined their efforts. It’s a unique, multi-layered book that uses excerpts from classical children’s books such as Little Women and Treasure Island, within the illustrations and is done in such a way that anyone of any age interested in books would appreciate poring over it. I bought it for my older daughter who collects quality picture books to use in her teaching.
There’s an interview with both of the authors here.