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We All Deserve Pictures: stunning new titles from Michael Morpurgo & Catherine Rayner, Eoin Colfer & Victor Ambrus

The Seal's Face by Eoin Colfer and Victor Ambrus, and Clare and her Captain by Michael Morpurgo and Catherine Rayner

It’s October publication day and we are tremendously proud to publish two stunning illustrated fiction titles from two pairings who represent the very best in storytelling with word and picture ”“ Michael Morpurgo and Catherine Rayner, and Eoin Colfer and Victor Ambrus. These marvellous stories, bursting with pictures, represent our first foray into full-colour fiction for 8+. We feel passionately about this area ”“ read on for a little background, or scroll to the bottom to explore the books. But first, feast your eyes:

Clare and Her Captain by Morpurgo and Rayner

Captain from Clare and her Captain, written by Michael Morpurgo with illustrations by Catherine Rayner.

A whale illustration from Victor Ambrus

A sea scene from The Seal’s Fate, written by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Victor Ambrus.

Someone has stolen the pictures!
Back in September, the team at Children’s Books Ireland invited us to speak at their annual conference on the theme of Conceal and Reveal: Truth and Lies in Children’s Books. We interpreted the brief as a chance to talk about the fibs we tell children about reading, the fibs they tell in turn, and what it all reveals about the way we think about children and books.

One of the areas we looked at was the status of pictures in books for children. For many people, a picture book is by definition a book for babies. We don’t agree, in part because we believe that much picture book art is good art, and good art has something to say to anyone. Take Oliver Jeffers and The Heart in the Bottle, a book about grief and its effects. Lots to say, to anyone. Other picture book creators think in terms of dual messages, because adults read picture books to children. So, rather as The Simpsons has Bart for the kids and Homer and Marge for the grown-ups, many picture books offer different pleasures to the child and the adult reader. Adults who don’t realise this are missing out.

And what about illustrated fiction? Why is ”˜serious fiction’ with pictures a rarity on the shelves, when writers such as Dickens and Shakespeare were routinely illustrated until not so long ago?

Part of the reason, probably, is cost. Those lovely hardbacks with their engraved plates were rather less accessible to Mr and Mrs Average than today’s mass-market paperback. But that’s not the whole answer. Pictures have also acquired a status problem and we have come to fetishise the printed word. This fetishisation also manifests itself in the way many adults will dismiss audio books and oral storytelling (and dramatic adaptations, of course) as somehow lesser than looking at printed shapes with our eyes. Perhaps it all, ultimately, stems from that Word that was in the beginning, and religious traditions that placed value on reading It for oneself, as opposed to looking at frescoes or hearing it from the pulpit or whatever That Other Lot Do”¦

Donkey ears illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Donkey ears from Catherine Rayner’s illustrations in Clare and her Captain

It’s Not Healthy
The knock-on effect of all of this is to narrow our understanding of reading and experience of story, rather than expanding it. For example, a teacher attending an event at Cheltenham Festival bemoaned the fact that the parents of her students are so obsessed with their children reading words that they dismiss as worthless work with pictures to develop crucial sequencing and other narrative skills. And let’s remember that many adults are without a vocabulary for discussing visual art and can be afraid even to look at it for fear that it’s some great secret from which they’re excluded. Which is not to say they don’t like pictures, because even the briefest of surveys of the internet make it clear that the number one driver of traffic anywhere online is”¦ you’ve guessed it, visual content.

Let’s get the pencils out
We want to bring pictures back to centre stage. In addition to our two marvellous new books, we will shortly be publishing two incredible graphic novels and many more illustrated books. We also wholeheartedly welcome Sally Gardner and David Roberts’s Tinder, Patrick Ness and Jim Kay’s A Monster Calls and all the other gorgeous books busy putting the pictures back in. We hope you love our new titles as much as we do, and that you agree that We All Deserve Pictures.

The Books

In The Seal’s Fate by Eoin Colfer and Victor Ambrus, Bobby Parrish faces an impossible decision. His dad expects him to take part in the seal bounty ”“ to club a seal. But Bobby is not the person his father thinks. Can he find a way to stay true to himself in the face of such enormous pressure? Inspired by an episode in Colfer’s father’s childhood, stunningly witty writing meets evocative artwork for an incredible sense of place.

Clare and her Captain by Michael Morpurgo and Catherine Rayner, a girl on holiday in Devon meets an old hermit and his beloved horse, and establishes a friendship that will change all of their lives forever. Inspired by Clare Morpurgo’s childhood, this is a book by the master of countryside writing for children and one of the leading wildlife artists in the UK for all animal lovers to cherish.

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