On Friday 19th February I attended the second meeting of Write Away at Walker Books London (click here to read more about it). The topic covered was “reviewing picture books” . As a reviewer- guest I sat, listen and absorb everything and I realised that is always tricky to review picture books and understand the love-hate relationship between text and artwork. The morning was a mix of presentations from illustrators (which their books are familiar to me because we have read them with my son!) , designers and reviewers and a reviewing workshop session based on new books from the Walker list.
I particularly enjoyed Deirdre McDermott, picture book publisher at Walker Books who welcome us all and commented that text and image telling stories at the same time and image is the language of imagination. As a publisher she said our aim is to make books for children to enjoy!
I also enjoyed listening to Antony Browne, illustrator of books for children, he took us on a tour on some of his books including the Hansel and Gretel, the Gorilla and Changes and he talked about all the visual elements (style, colour, line, shapes, mood, font etc) and how important they are in connection to the story and how artform brings unity with the story. He urged that we should concentrate on the picture not only on the plot we should develop or see more what’s going on the picture.
Bruce Ingham author of the Pencil, talked about how he was inspired to write this book and highlight some of his experiences working with authors, publishers, graphic designers. He shared some of his thoughts his little drawing book with sketches and illustrations with the audience. He said a picture send signal for us (the audience) to look at and should open it up!
Next we heard from Nicoletta Jones Sunday Times reviewer who pointed out that reviewers should find details and focus more on visual observations and make connections beyond the obvious. Nicolleta’s lifting, warm voice had us all entranced throughout her talk. I especially loved her phrase about ‘If only I had a thousand of words’.
All speakers were inspirational and truly wonderful and we heard some of the reviewers opinions about writing negative reviews how to approach them or what does it mean some books are difficult to review. Shame though that the schedule was tight and wasn’t enough time to chat to people and share ideas.
But I promised to myself that I will keep writing, reviewing and evaluating picture books by using my instinct if not only my knowledge – after all I am still learning….