Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Play Pen by Martin Salisbury

This is hands-down my favourite 'picture book'! It's an extensive look at the 'new children's book illustration' - a quiet but exciting revolution taking place in the world of the picture book.

The 'new' book illustration can't really be defined by style, design or concept but what it has in common is a departure from traditional storytelling images and an inclination to play with the form. There's innovation and experimentation and stuff that makes you go 'wow'!


Salisbury (who hails from the UK) writes in his introduction: 'There is much debate about what constitutes an 'appropriate' visual diet for children.' UK publishers are more conservative than 'their French, Italian, Norwegian, German and Scandinavian counterparts', claiming that the innovative stuff 'doesn't sell'.


Perhaps that is changing a little. Although a more conservative style still dominates the bookshelves, I think there is room for both traditional illustration styles and the more experimental graphic forms.

The book is organised into four main sections: picturebooks & boardbooks / alphabets, wordplay, novelty / older children and non-fiction. Then it goes by illustrator, with each artist given one or more double-page spreads.What I like about this book is that it doesn't focus too heavily on one region. Artists from a wide array of countries are represented. Our own Shaun Tan rightly gets his own spread!

Every time I open this book I get excited about picture books and their possibilities all over again.

Play Pen: New Children's Book Illustration by Martin Salisbury is published by Laurence King Publishing.