There have been many books that have inspired me to become an author/illustrator and compiling a list of just ten books was veeeeery difficult. Being a children’s writer, it’s children’s books that I’ve always enjoyed and found comfort in. Being a fairly reluctant reader as a child, I was always searching for books that combined expressive text with eye-catching illustrations. My love of children’s books has never waned and I still enjoy browsing through picture books and children’s literature as it always seems to transport me back to my happy childhood.
So here are 10 of my personal favourites. I’ve grown up with many of these titles while some I’ve only discovered in recent years … but all I love. Each book in its own way has contributed to my writing and drawing style.
One of my earliest memories is drooling over the pages of The Muddleheaded Wombat. The illustrations in the book would always astound me as a child and I would often wonder how Noela Young could possibly sketch such realistically magical images. I would carry this book with me everywhere I went and spend most weekends trying to copy Noela’s The Muddleheaded Wombat the best I could. I believe it’s this book that sparked my love of children’s books in the very beginning. I now have the great pleasure of working alongside Noela Young, illustrating stories for The School Magazine.
A Fish out of Water is about a fish named Otto that’s fed too much and grows ridiculously out of control … and keeps growing! The story is based on a short tale by Helen Palmer’s husband, Dr Seuss. It’s classic storytelling, decorated with dazzling illustration work. I was always super-duper careful not to feed my pet goldfish too much fish food after reading this book.
From the moment I read Where the Wild Things Are, I wanted to be Max … the dreamer, the adventurer all dressed up in his animal onesie. The way Sendak transforms Max’s bedroom into a wilderness filled with strange and fascinating creatures is remarkable.
As a child, I thought poetry was boring until I discovered Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl. Revolting Rhymes is Dahl’s take on traditional nursery rhymes through twisted sarcasm and juicy humour. Quentin Blake’s sketchy illustration style complements this collection of dark poetry perfectly. The drawing of the Big Bad Wolf after he devoured two of the little pigs is a personal fave.
5. Gorga, the Space Monster – Choose Your Own Adventure by Edward Packard and illustrated by Paul Granger
Although many teachers from the 1980s may disagree, Choose Your Own Adventure books were viewed as quality AND essential reading by the kids of that generation. They were fun, easy to read, had cracking illustrations and gave the reader the power to choose how the story would end up. I remember trying to collect as many from the series as possible, and … I would always cheat. I’d read the endings first and work my way back … but at least I was reading! My favourite Choose Your Own Adventure book was Gorga, the Space Monster. Gorga was a cute and cuddly purple alien. But watch out … choose the wrong path and Gorga could accidently devour you in one breath! It was awesome!
I guess people are either Asterix or Tintin fans. I’m definitely the latter. The Tintin series has been a phenomenal success over the years and the books have always been popular in the schools that I’ve attended as a student and now a teacher. Tintin books have timeless appeal with each page exploding with good old-fashioned action. The stories usually involve some kind of mystery that sends Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy the Dog off to every corner of the globe. These iconic characters constantly erupt with personality and flare and always seemed to be involved in a high speed car/plane/boat/motorcycle chase. Explorers on the Moon was the most enjoyable read for me from the series.
I’m always amazed by the incredible creativity and imagination of Shaun Tan. His wonderfully strange stories are always complemented with just as unusual, but always breathtaking artwork. The Lost Thing picture book was later transformed into an animated short film, which won Shaun Tan an Academy Award. Each year at my school, I always make a point of showing every new class The Lost Thing film … it’s magical!
My Place is a very special book and one of its creators has played a very important role in my life. Not only is My Place one of the great Australian picture books about the nation’s ever changing landscape, but it is also one that changed my artistic landscape forever. In 2012, illustrator Donna Rawlins visited my school to talk about My Place (I’m a primary school art teacher). Donna spied some of my drawings hanging around the school. She took a fancy to one of them and asked me to meet with her colleagues at Walker Books Australia. From this meeting, The Bloodhound Boys was born and so was my career as a children’s author/illustrator. Whenever I see My Place in the library or being read by a student, I always think of Donna and this very special day. Thanks Donna!
The book’s blurb: “Two children, treasure map in hand, and their pet gazelle sneak past their father, out of the house, and into a world beneath the city, where monsters and pirates roam. Will they find treasure? Will they make it out alive?” A mixture of horror and spelling, The Dangerous Alphabet is lots of fun spooky fun, written by the mysterious Neil Gaiman and illustrated by the just as mysterious Gris Grimly. Both author and illustrator specialise in creepiness. Older primary school-aged kids would love this.
And a book I’m itching the read …
Scott Campbell’s new children’s book about ‘hugs’ looks fantastic. I’ve always been a huge fan of Campbell’s originality and humorous illustration work. The book trailer for Hug Machine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyRmZDyKPQU) is brilliant. If the book is anything like the trailer, Hug Machine should prove to be very popular.
by Andrew Cranna
Deep under the Earth’s crust, Skull River City is experiencing unexplained earthquakes AND impending doom. But Rocky and Vince have a challenge of their own – competing in the Monster Truck Grand Prix. A roller-coaster ride full of twists and turns, this lethal race will lead the Bloodhound Boys way off track. Will these undead friends be able to follow the signs back home in time to stop the earthquakes?
About the Author
Andrew Cranna is an artist, educator and author who is currently based in Sydney NSW. Andrew’s cartoons and illustrations are loved by young people across the country and appear regularly in the pages of The School Magazine.