On Sunday I will travel to London, stay in a hotel, sleep in the city. On Monday I will go to The British Library for the Greenaway and Carnegie awards. The Greenaway and Carnegie are two of the top awards for children’s books in the UK. The Greenaway is awarded solely for the illustration, named after Kate Greenaway. The winner receives a beautiful gold medal. I have been nominated for the award many times, longlisted now and again, but this is the first time a book of mine has achieved a position on the shortlist and I cannot begin to say what an honour it is to be on the shortlist and in such good company.
CILIP run a wonderful website and you can see films of all the shortlisted illustrators talking about their books. It’s worth looking back over previous years too. In a world where there are so many books published you can build a library for your child by gathering together past winners and also shortlisted books and be assured that there is a level of excellence in all of the books.
Watching the films is great too, especially for anyone who wishes to work in the industry. I learned so much more about Sam and Dave Dig a Hole from watching the film.
In previous years I have tried to pick my favourite, which is always difficult when friends have books on the list. This year it was easy. Even before the list was announced one book had come to my attention. Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith.
I can’t remember how or where this book found me. I do remember getting to the end of it and not having realised there were no words. One of the criteria for the award is that it is a marriage of words and pictures. You can have the best illustrations in the world but if the text isn’t up to it then the book won’t get through to the shortlist. So, no words. And yet, and yet and yet, somehow the book slides into the mind and the story is so beautifully drawn that the text was there, but not cluttering up the page, but giving such space to these wonderful, simple lines.
It’s an urban picture book and there is a sadness in the long walk home where dad’s too busy on the phone to take notice but the child, a young girl, sees the beauty in the flowers that grow in the small spaces in between, and gifts them along the way to people and animals. Black and white, with colour used to perfection, it is a story of love and small and simple acts of kindness.
The film of Sydney Smith talking about how he designed and drew the book is wonderful and I love the progression from the very ‘real’ drawing of the girl to a much more fluid style. I love also hearing how others struggle. His words about trying to draw and having to go outside and just draw what was there is balm to the soul. Now the book is finished it looks so easy, elegant. But it’s hard hard work and so much thought goes into each page. I love that they are all done as panels then put together later. So much to learn. These films should be watched in all art colleges.
There is also a film of the book:
I love that there are no words. That a poet knew that the words aren’t required in this case so he stepped back and let the pictures tell his story, and I would love to hear him talking about it.
Everything about this book is perfect from the size, the reproduction, the paper quality, design. And the message. Small acts of kindness. And finding beauty. At the end she looks to the sky, to the flight of birds. I think when she grows up she will not live in a city, but in the countryside, where she will have a small house with a garden filled with flowers and wild things and she will feed the birds.
So, the award is held at the British Library and that in itself is exciting. Such a place of learning. There can be only one winner, and whilst I would love it to be Something About a Bear, being on the shortlist is incredible enough. Footpath Flowers is my favourite. It will always be a winner for me.
Tidying up my desk I found a letter and small package from a lovely woman called Keiko in Japan. She had sent me some Japanese green tea to say thank you for something I had sent to her. It had become buried under things on my desk, but came to light today. A small act of kindness from a friend far away.
So, today I will continue to tidy my desk. ( I have even hovered the floor which had become something of a dog hair felted carpet) And I will make time to sit in the sunshine and read, and think. And I will drinking green tea sent to me by Keiko ( thank you Keiko. I have one o fthe cat stickers on my sketchbook now) from beautiful cups made by Euan Craig in Japan.
The leaves will take 3 lots of hot water. The colour is beautiful. And I am looking forward to settling into my next book.