Posts Tagged Illustration

On the shoulders of giants

I love it when I’m teaching science or maths and there are stories to tell, stories that unfold some piece of understanding and something human at the same time. Sometimes what humanity has learnt can be recapitulated for an individual learner, and the two syncronise really well.

Such is the case with our work on Galileo this term, which connects really closely with some of the things to learn about forces.

It’s even better if there are actual story-book stories to read. Illustrated ones even. And there are. Three that I found and read with the class, each of them a gem.

Peter Sis’s Starry Messenger is a song of praise to Galileo. It has a surreal feel and the pictures are loaded with metaphor.




Galileo’s Journal written by Jeanne Pettenati and illustrated by Paolo Rui, tells the story of Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter in 1609 – 1610.



Galileo's Journal illustration










And Galileo’s Leaning Tower Experiment, written by Wendy Macdonald and again illustrated by Paolo Rui, tells the story of a little boy from Pisa called Massimo who meets Professor Galileo on the bridge while dropping bread and cheese to his uncle.




So great to find these books that, in different ways, bring the story of Galileo, and his science, to life!

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Carnaby Street’s Great Uninivted

Safia Shah and Mark Reeve’s Carnaby Street is a rumbustuous maelstrom of a book, a book of unexpectedly-arriving eccentric relatives, knit-offs (maths-and-sun-loving mum wins) and unlikely cuisine.


With its dizzying cast of characters, both animal and human, and its love of almost-lost locutions, it’s a book where it’s a delight to get lost in the details, which Mark Reeve brings to life brilliantly.



And, it’s accessorized! There’s a credit-card sized magnifying glass, for looking at the really small details, and a ribboned bookmark for… well for bookmarking (without the possibility of losing the bookmark). You might want to bookmark this page for instance:


It depicts a knitted picnic. Unlikely you’d think, but then the book has led to a knitted garb for a London cab.


Here’s Safia Shah talking about the book:

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The Daydreamer

the daydreamerI’m teaching  Year 4 next year (8 and 9 year olds).  So I’ve started to read books that they might like.

I like Ian McEwan’s The Daydreamer a lot, though maybe it’s a bit too old for most Y4 children. Why too old? Perhaps the element of threat. But then again, maybe it’s OK…

It’s a book about a young boy who’s a daydreamer, dreaming about transformations.

My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind.

Ovid, Metamorphoses

So, in the wonderful chapter called The Cat, Peter discovers something unexpected about his cat:

Looking down through the fur, and parting it with the tips of his fingers ,he saw that he had opened up a small slit in the cat’s skin. It was as if he were holding the handle of a zip. Again he pulled, and now there was a dark opening two inches long. William Cat’s purr was coming from in there.

The choice of Anthony Browne as illustrator is perfect. His detailed realistic images always have an element of the surreal in them, and McEwan’s writing embeds the mysterious in the quotidian detail of family life:

In the big untidy kitchen there was a drawer. Of course, there were many drawers, but when someone said, ‘The string is in the kitchen drawer,’ everyone understood. The chances were the string would not be in the drawer. It was meant to be, along with a dozen other useful things that were never there: screwdrivers, scissors, sticky tape, drawing pins, pencils. If you wanted one of these, you looked in the drawer first, then you looked everywhere else. What was in the drawer was hard to define: things that had no natural place, things that had no use but did not deserve to be thrown away, things that might be mended one day. So—batteries that still had a little life, nuts without their bolts, the handle of a precious teapot, a padlock without a key or a combination lock whose secret number was a secret to everyone, the dullest kind of marbles, foreign coins, a torch without a bulb, a single glove from a pair lovingly knitted by Granny before she died, a hot water bottle stopper, a cracked fossil. By some magic reversal, everything spectacularly useless filed the drawer intended for practical tools. What could you do with a single piece of jigsaw? But, on the other hand, did you dare throw it away?

I think maybe this would be a good read-aloud book, to make the trickier ideas more accessible, and to be together for the weirder parts. The language is, as you’d expect, just right, good to hear.

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flip the flap

all mixed upI’ve just come across Carin Berger’s All Mixed Up.  It’s one of those mix-and-match flip books where you can mix and match body parts from different people to create lots of new people. You can actually virtually turn the pages here.

I’ve been reading Odysseus to my class over the last few months, and as part of the work we did, we created some mythical beasts. At first I had the idea that it would be a mix and match book. Then I wanted them all to have collaborated in creating one combined beast. Anyway, I liked what they created and wrote so much I didn’t have any flipping or flapping. Here’s the book.

One of the flip books that I’ve got and like a lot is Tony Meeuwissen’s Remarkable Animals – 1000 Amazing Amalgamations.

remarkable animals

Each creature has a head, a body and a tail, and you can mix them up and read the descriptions.

tony meeuwissen trunkfish tony meeuwissen wossut cataboopus


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Varjak Paw

“There are Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal,” whispered the Elder Paw.  “We know only three of them. Their names are these.  Slow-Time.  Moving Circles.  Shadow-Walking.”

SF Said‘s Varjak Paw is a tale of a pet cat who must grow up, learn to survive Outside, and learn the Seven Skills of his ancestor Jalal. He uses the skills, which he learns from Jalal in his dreams, to help his new street cat friends, Holly and Tam.

As usual David McKean’s illustrations are amazing, and complement the text brilliantly.

Varjak Paw 1

Varjak Paw 2

Varjak Paw 3

Varjak Paw 4

Varjak Paw 5




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Of the frogge and the crabbe

The frogge vppon a tyme whan she sawe the crabbe swymmynge by the watersyde spake and sayde: “What is he, this so fowle and vncomly, that is so bold to trouble my watyr? Forsomoch as I am mighty and stronge both in watyr and lond I shal go and dryue him away.”

And aftir this saying she made a lepe as though she wold haue oppressyd the crabbe and sayde: “O thow wretche, why art not thow shamefaste to entyr in to my restynge place? Arte not thowe confusyd to defyle the watyr that is so fayre and bright whan thow arte so fowle soo blacke and soo odyows?”

The crabbe as he is vsyd to do went euyr bakwarde, saynge to the frogge, “Syster, saye not soo, for I desyre to haue thy loue and to be at peace withe the. Therfore I praye the entyr not vppon me withe vyolence.”

And the frogge, seynge hym goynge baltwarde beleuid that he had doone soo for fere of her.

Wherfore she began to greue him more and more both with woordes and dedys, saynge: “Withdrawe not thy self, thowe moost fowle, for thow mayst not escape, for this same daye I shall fede fysshes with the.”

And euyn forthwith that same woorde she made a lepe wyllynge to sle the crabbe. The crabbe, seynge the greate iubardye and that he cowde not escape, he tournyd him self and disposyd him to batell and caught the frogge with his cleys and bote her and plukkyd her to smale pecys and sayde:

“He that to batell is compellyd to goo

Let him fight manly with his mortall foo.”


Another story from the first English version of the Dialogus Creaturarum. The picture is again from Claude Nourry’s 1509 edition printed at Lyon.

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a machine for tales

Thanks Mick for the Story Cubes.

Already they’ve been generating all sorts of fantastical fictions.

Not only that, but I obviously think, “How would that work with children?” I’m going to try it out.

And then I think, “What if the pictures were different?” and “What pictures would I put on the dice, that would lead to the most interesting and various places?”

There’s heavy cloud sweeping over Skye, so already they’ve been in use today.

Then again, maybe a more complicated story generator is needed.

I saw, via the Internet, at the Story Museum in Oxford they had reconstructed a nineteenth century Storyloom.

The machine is more precisely known as Rochester’s Extraordinary Storyloom. This page tells us that “Victorian inventor Barnabas Rochester had an interest in stories but little talent for writing them – which is why he is said to have built the Storyloom.”

It’s Ted Dewan who is the engineer behind the reconstruction of the storyloom. His website is

Ted Dewan is an amazing illustrator when he’s not doing reconstructive engineering. I especially like his black and white pictures for Robert Ornstein’s books:




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