Although I know more now than I did fifteen years ago, I still don’t consider myself to be any kind of expert on illustrated fiction. However, from being someone who was fairly ambivalent about it, I have become a bit of an enthusiast. Not being an artist by any stretch of the imagination I don’t really have the technical knowledge or vocabulary to describe illustration particularly eloquently. But, in that well-worn saying, I do know what I like!
One of the things I’m enjoying just now is a series of books by David Roberts and Lynn Roberts-Maloney published by Pavilion Children’s Books. The books play around with fairytales, setting them in different periods and subtly altering their messages. I’ve blogged elsewhere about Cinderella and today another two floated across my desk.
Sleeping Beauty (subtitled A mid-century fairy tale) brings the setting fairly up to date – and beyond. Annabel, aka Aurora, lives with two aunts and has been cursed by a spiteful witch. Clever Aunt Flora modifies the wicked Morwenna’s spell although she can only diminish its power. If Annabel pricks her finger before her 16th birthday she will sleep for one thousand years.
For Little Red, the duo has gone back in time and across the Atlantic to pioneer America at the end of the eighteenth century. Unlike most versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the main character is a boy but the wolf and Grandma are still there. This one is subtitled A howlingly good fairy tale with a twist and it very much does what it says on the tin.
What I love about the illustrations in these books is the detail, not just the attention to it but also the amount of it there is. The clothes and hairstyles in both books are particularly wonderful. I especially love the 1950s styles of the first part of Sleeping Beauty. Morwenna stands out from all the other guests at Annabel’s christening by dint of her dress and Annabel’s teenage ponytail proclaims her vintage. Equally evocative are the pictures in Little Red with their stylised fashions voluptuously fixing the story in the eighteenth century.
Look out for both of these as well as Rapunzel, a groovy 1970s fairy tale and the aforementioned Cinderella in art deco design.