[UPDATE] Since this post was written I have learned that Chris Haugton's wonderful picturebook 'A Bit Lost' has won the Dutch Picturebook of the Year Award.
When the Bisto Children's Book of the Year Shortlist was announced recently I was delighted to see five quality picturebooks by Irish artists; two by multi award winning Oliver Jeffers ('Up and Down' and 'The Heart and the Bottle'), two by newcomer Kevin Waldron ('The Owl and the Pussycat' and 'Tiny Little Fly') and one by first-timer Chris Haughton ('A Bit Lost'). Between them they showcase the strong contribution Irish artists are making to the modern picturebook.
When Belfast man Oliver Jeffers burst onto the scene in 2004 with 'How to Catch a Star' we knew a star artist was born. Since then Jeffers has produced six more beautiful books for young children, three of them about 'the boy' and his adventures, of which 'Up and Down' is the latest. Jeffers other shortlisted title 'The Heart and the Bottle' has a more complicated and philosophical story and may appeal to slightly older children, as well as the adults who read it with them. Both books share a wonderful use of colour (there is a danger you'll feel a strong impulse to redecorate after seeing his ochre yellows, gray greens and bottomless deep blues!).
Chris Haughton's first picturebook 'A Bit Lost' was originally published in Korea and has already been translated into several languages. While the text is similar in content to several other 'lost mummy' books on the market, it is kept elegantly simple and the pictures are simply stunning. The colours are rich and strong and have great impact. From the very first page the child co-reader is engaged as they notice little owl about to topple from his perch, they follow little owl on his search for his mother and share in his relief when he finds her...only to notice he's about to topple again! Great for sharing, this book showcasess an artist who has grasped what picturebooks for young children are all about. [UPDATE] This was clearly endorsed by the judging panel at the Dutch Picturebook of the Year Award. 'A Bit Lost' is published in Dutch as 'Mama Kwijt'. Chris Haugton's reaction? 'I'm in shock!' Read more at his website www.chrishaughton.com
Dubliner Kevin Waldron is a new name,but we will definitely be hearing, and seeing, more from this extraordinarily talented artist. His illustrated version of Edward Lear's famous poem 'The Owl and the Pussycat' takes a familiar text and rises to the challenge of re-imagining it for a new generation. Publishers Walker Books are renowned for the quality of their picturebooks and in pairing the poet Michael Rosen's text with Kevin Waldron's pictures in 'Tiny Little Fly' they have hit on magic! The cover alone is the most striking image I've seen all year, with the strong orange and black stripes of the tiger and his one huge green eye directing our gaze to the tiny little fly... The rest of the illustrations don't disappoint, with each turn of the page presenting a single artfully composed and deceptively simple scene, like a short film unreeling in front of our eyes. I'm a fan already, and am sticking my neck out to say that, despite strong competition, 'Tiny Little Fly' would make a worthy winner of the Bisto Award - but we'll have to wait until 16th May to find out! [UPDATE] Will I change horses, after the Chris Haugton victory in Holland? No, I'll stick with my tip for 'Tiny Little Fly' - though either would be a worthy winner.
The five other books shortlisted for the Bisto Award are; 'Dancing in the Dark' by Peter Prendergast, 'Prim Improper' by Deirdre Sullivan, 'Taking Fight' by Sheena Wildinson, 'The Lunatics Curse' by F. E. Higgins (all novels) and an illustrated book in Irish 'Mac Rí Éireann' le Caitríona Hastings agus Andrew Whiton. The winner of the Bisto Book of the Year and merit award winners will be announced on Monday 16th May. Check the website of Children's Books Ireland for more details www.childrensbooksireland.com