There is a lady who lives in a stone house in Pembrokeshire, Wales, within walking distance of the sea. She started out as an illustrator, illustrating other people’s books, but then words found her and she began writing the books she illustrated. Her name is Jackie Morris. I’ve been following her blog for quite a while now, and it has led me to the most wonderful books. If you have small children in your life, or you love wonderful words and magical artwork, you need to look into her books. I cannot think of a more wonderful first book for a small child of any ilk than her “Tell Me a Dragon.” She has books about fairy tale swans, cats, snow leopards, bears in general, polar bears in particular, hares, seal children, and traditional nursery rhymes.
For older children from the age about 8 to 100, there is “The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow,” which grew out of the Christmas cards she designs each year for The Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, a musician’s charity in the UK. I can, and have, poured over the wonderfully intricate illustrations of this book for hours on end.
For the incurably romantic, there is her retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” with its gorgeous illustrations. She writes nonfiction as well. Queen of the Sky is the real-life story of the rescue and return to the wild of a peregrine falcon who fell into the sea.
Perhaps her illustration masterwork is a collaboration with author Robert MacFarlane which resulting in a rare jewel of a little book called, “The Lost Words.” The text begs to be read aloud, to people of any age, from babes in arms to adults, and the illustrations are just magical. There has been an amazing response to this book in the UK with spontaneous fundraising campaigns springing up to put a copy of this book in every school in Scotland, and in every school in various counties in England and Wales — which have all been overfunded!
She’s even written books that others have illustrated. One called “Mrs. Noah’s Pockets” is one that springs to mind. It is a charming little children’s story about Mrs. Noah, (the wife of the guy who did the ark thing) which, like all the best children’s stories, is full of wisdom and subtlety.
Today I was reading her latest blog post about taking time off to go attend a concert by singer/songwriter Karine Polwart. On her way back, she stopped at The Works in Llandeilo, Wales, an old weaving factory filled with antique stalls, to stretch her legs and during her browsing, she discovered a Georgian wooden paint box — complete with paints, with both bricks of watercolor paint and tubes of paint, and painterly acoutrements . . . which dated near as she can tell from sometime between 1800 and 1818. Of course, it went home with her.
Now that she’s got this magical paint box, there’s no telling what she’ll come up with next.