I think if I was asked to name my favourite picture book illustrator working today it would be Beatrice Alemagna. I first saw her work by chance in an Italian bookshop and ever since i have always followed her work and been blown away by her endlessly inventive drawings and poetic and intelligent stories. I was honoured to actually meet her through a good friend at last years Bologna fair, and i was very surprised to find that she has put a link to my work from her site (wow!!!!) so i wanted to return the favour.
I just quickly googled her to add some English links to her books, but as far as i can see most are still not available in English. I think its kind of amazing…. the standard of English language picture books generally i think is so so weak compared to French and continental Europe. Walk into any good bookshop in France or Italy (or Japan/Korea) and you will just be blown away by the quality and creativity of the picture books, they are not simply aimed at children. There is a depth and poetry that can be read on many levels. Anyone who has ever been to any of my illustration workshops can tell you i love to show Beatrice’s books and images as inspiration, but there are so many intelligent and thoughtful books in that vein that we rarely see.
Publishers like Naive Livres / Gallimard Jeunesse / Editions Memo / Autrement / Planeta Tangerina / Sarbacane / Thierry Magnier / OQO / Corraini / Orecchio Acerbo / Borim all that awe-inspiring quality stuff seems like its everywhere in Europe but is rarely translated or very difficult to find in the English speaking world. A few good designy-bookshops in London (Magma etc) now import the French/Italian/Japanese language versions for the benefit of design savvy fans ….but perhaps more children would benefit from reading them. I always wonder why they arent they translated? I’m always blown away by the high standard of the advertising and design in the UK and the English speaking world, in general way ahead of the advertising coming out of France and Europe but in the world of picture books I think we are far behind in imagination.
The dark shadow in the corner i think is my sock (scusi Beatrice!!!!)
This is out in Korean but not English? Isn’t that a bit weird?
UPDATE Jan 2014:
A LION IN PARIS is now available here in English thanks to the excellent TATE publishing! They do lots of really great other picture books too, many from the publishers i mentioned above.
I was honoured to write a quote for the back of the English version book (wow!!!) and I spoke to Anna Ridley about how the book inspired me here: