Title: Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration
Author: Leonard S. Marcus
Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Non-fiction, Biography
Book format: Hardback (coffee table book)
Description: Helen Oxenbury, the illustrator of such picture book classics as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Farmer Duck, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and so many others, is truly one of the world’s most beloved and celebrated children’s book creators. Helen has won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal twice – in 1969, for The Quangle Wangle’s Hat and The Dragon of an Ordinary Family and in 1999, for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 2015 Helen was the recipient of an Eric Carle Artist Honor and in 2018, she was winner of the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to children’s literature. Written by acclaimed children’s book scholar Leonard S. Marcus and filled with observations and insights that span Helen Oxenbury’s life, from her early childhood through her unique career in children’s books that began in 1964, here is an uplifting and inspiring celebration of one of the finest illustrators of our time.
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: Wow, this is such a lively and very interesting book all about the illustrator Helen Oxenbury. A coffee table book, it’s very heavy and quite large in size but it feels like such a wonderful book to both hold and read. Inside there are very thick matt pages with both text and many illustrations by Helen, there is also a lovely ribbon that acts as a bookmark, and the whole book has a dust jacket with some wonderful secret pictures on the hardback covers which you can see if you carefully take off the dust jacket.
This book feels very special and is so interesting to read. It is a biography of Helen’s life as an illustrator. It begins from her childhood and goes chronologically through her life, touching on her earlier years in college, as well as what she did afterwards before settling down as a book illustrator. As you read Helen’s story, you get to see so many lovely illustrations that she has done over the years. I didn’t know some of Helen’s earlier books, and it was nice to be able to see the beautiful and very detailed illustrations she has done.
As you read on about Helen’s life, you get an insight into the publisher Walker Books too, as well as a little bit of insight into children’s publishing in the past. You learn all about the man who started the Walker Books, and how different the publisher was to others. It’s very interesting to read and makes me even more curious to learn more. You also see how Helen’s story ties into the publisher. In a sense, at times, this book is both about Helen and Walker Books and it’s only when you read through the text that you learn all about how important the publisher has been to Helen (and other illustrators) life and how important Helen has been in to the publisher.
The book is separated into chapters and each is filled with so many lovely illustrations. There are pages with both text and images, and then many double page spreads of Helen’s work on some of her most important and successful books (of course including ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’). As well as illustrations there are photographs of both Helen and her family as well as various other friends, you even get to see some of Helen’s sculptures!
This book has been so fun and fascinating to read. Helen Oxenbury has brought so many stories to life with her beautiful illustrations which are just perfect for the stories that are being told. I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone, whether you know Helen’s illustrations or not. She is a remarkable person and the story of both her life and that of Walker Books is such an interesting one. You even get to find out a little bit about the Walker Books bear logo if you read through to the very end! A perfect book that I’d really recommend.
Have you read any books by Helen Oxenbury? What other illustrators do you like? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂