|An alarm clock, clock tower and watch from No More Yawning |
written by Paeony Lewis, illustrated by Brita Granstrom (Chicken House)
When I’m in schools I tell the children that illustrators often add wonderful little extras into the pictures that aren’t in the writer’s story. So when I read Hurry Up, Birthday I ask them to look out for Muncher the rabbit who's always eating. I never suggested this to the illustrator and it’s a delightful extra by Sarah Gill. Illustrators are really good at this stuff!
|Muncher is the one in the foreground, eating the berry|
in Hurry Up, Birthday written by Paeony Lewis,
illustrated by Sarah Gill (Piccadilly Press)
|Six more images of hungry Muncher, illustrated by Sarah Gill, from Hurry Up, Birthday|
All this got me thinking and I asked three lovely illustrators if they had any examples of 'extras' in their illustrations, or even images that have a hidden personal meaning. Here's what they said and it shows there can be so much more to an illustration than just the writer's story. With thanks to illustrators Mandy Stanley, Bridget Strevens-Marzo and John Shelley.
"Occasionally, I'll add a small bug or similar if it's appropriate to the theme of the book. Roo the Roaring Dinosaur features a little red ant – the publishers noticed this 'secret' and decided to make it a feature for children to spot throughout the pages!"
|Can you spot the red ant? From Roo the Roaring Dinosaur, |
written by David Bedford, illustrated by Mandy Stanley (Simon & Schuster)
|From the back cover of Roo the Roaring Dinosaur. |
The publisher noticed Mandy's ant on each page of the
book and turned it into 'spot the ant'.
Out of all the books illustrated and written by Mandy, including her Lettice the rabbit stories, Rufferella is still one of her favourites.
|Rufferella, written by Vanessa Gill-Brown,|
illustrated by Mandy Stanley (Bloomsbury)
|Mandy's grandma is shown knitting as she sits on a park bench. |
The park is Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich.
Rufferella, illus by Mandy Stanley
| From Three Little Kittens (Time for a Rhyme)|
by Mandy Stanley (Harper Collins)
Plus there’s another tiny detail, that might be tricky to see. However, look closely because….
Sneaking 'KGB' into a picture book could have led to lots of interesting conspiracy theories!
|From Knock, Knock! written by David Bedford, |
illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo (Little Hare)
To avoid monotony page by page, I had the mouse getting dressed and odd instruments building up on the far left. I also came up with a small ongoing visual story around the bird family outside the window. But I still felt it needed a bit more, for more 're-reading’ fun so I added a coat hanger and rack which gradually fills up – and plants that get knocked over (not shown here). On top of all this, comes just one ‘extra’ I sneaked in that only my two children and a few might recognize - a small photo of a black and white painting (with a just a hint of Mickey Mouse ears in it) by my former husband and lifelong friend, the artist Mick Finch."
"I don’t generally place hidden stories or secrets into my pictures, though my recent Shakespeare book has a hidden theme in that every single spread in the book contains Shakespeare himself - sometimes he’s obvious because he’s the central part of the picture, but on some pages he’s hidden amongst the crowd. A Shakespearian Where’s Wally! That was just a fun addition bonus theme."
From Will's Words, written by Jane Sutcliffe, illus by John Shelley (Charlesbridge Publishing)
"It’s not often I plan these kind of things. However I do populate my image with personal references and objects around me, things which only I and my sharp-eyed associates know are auto-biographical."
"That’s my personal brand of olive oil,
but also the Japanese tea container next to it is mine."
John says self-portraits are common in illustrations and here are two examples.
"That’s me on the scaffold of course." From I Wish I Could be a Ballerina written by Rosie McCormick,
illustrated by John Shelley (Inky Press/Backpack Books)
"I used selfies on an iPhone to pull some faces for Will’s Words - smartphones are great for doing hand references!" From Will's Words, written by Jane Sutcliffe, illus by John Shelley (Charlesbridge Publishing)
*****Thinking about it, the way illustrators sometimes add personal extras to their illustrations is similar to what a writer will do in a story. A story may include memories, or is inspired by a person, place or object, or perhaps include the particular character traits of a friend or family. Our life experiences underpin our writing and sometimes we don’t realise it until later. In one instance an editor suggested I tone down a character because they’d be unbearable to live with. What the editor didn’t know was that I’d already toned down the character and it was based on… (sorry, I’d better not say!).
Finally, there are also instances where picture book illustrators add in their own fun, visual extra which is aimed at the adult, not the child.
|From Gilbert the Great, written by Jane Clarke,|
illustrated by Charles Fuge (Simon & Schuster)
Can you spot the allusions to Jaws?
I’ve always thought I was somebody who looked hard at illustrations, but now I’m going to look harder. I suspect I concentrate too much on reading the written word, unlike young children who listen to the story but only look at the images on the page. Children are often more visually literate than the adults. Though the personal items included in illustrations will remain a mystery, unless we're told.
If you have any favourite ‘extras’ or know a story behind an illustration, we’d love to hear about it in the comments' section below. Happy looking!