The Tiger’s Bookshelf: Picture Power

The Wolf
This year I gave my son a picture book for Christmas–nothing earthshaking about that until you consider that my son is in his early thirties and graduated from pictures to the printed word several decades ago. The book is one that my neighborhood bookstore has been selling to adults ever since it came to their shelves, and when I opened it I knew I had to give it to someone I loved. The book is Shaun Tan’s gorgeous book without words, The Arrival, and it is one that is featured on the PaperTigers gallery.

I have given picture books to adults for years, ever since I first began my life as a bookseller, and the illustrators that I yearn to give and to own are most often from Australia, a corner of the world that is covered quite wonderfully on PaperTigers by Charlotte.

Just before I moved from the arena of children’s books to a life in SE Asia, a book came to me from Australia that has haunted my imagination ever since I opened it. It is a perfect example of how words and pictures magically combine to create a book that lives forever in the hearts and minds of readers — The Wolf by Margaret Barbalet, illustrated by Jane Tanner (Maxwell Macmillan, 1991). No other book that I have found illustrates so vividly the crippling effects of fearing the unknown, and how facing that fear can turn it into something wonderful. Each picture is a painting, showing a family whose lives become imprisoned by their fear of the wolf who comes closer and closer to their house at night. When it is finally confronted by one of the children, it is revealed as a friendly, lonely creature who only wants shelter and love. Author and illustrator have blended their artistry to create a masterpiece that resonates to all age groups, on many different levels of understanding. If I could, I would give it to everyone I know.

And now — a plea for help — at the same time that The Wolf came into my life, another picture book from Australia also arrived in my workplace and I can no longer remember the title, author, or illustrator. The book however has proved to be unforgettable. It is the story of children playing an imaginary game in the backyard — the text shows the fantasy that the children have created while the full-page pictures show the reality of the game — the garbage can lids that are their shields and their dog who is the prey that they seek. It’s a brilliant depiction of the world of the imagination and I would love to find it again. Is there anybody out there who can steer me toward it?

7 Responses to “The Tiger’s Bookshelf: Picture Power”

  1. Marjorie Says:

    It is wonderful to hear about your giving The Arrival to your son – I have been telling everyone about it, adults and young people alike, since I first received a review copy and I think it is one of my favorite books of the past few years. I have told everyone about it and shown my copy to many people – and I have had it on order from my local bookshop for over a year to give to our godchildren – but it still hasn’t hit the bookshelves in a major way in the UK. It is very frustrating! But I cannot part with my copy so everyone I want to give it to will have to wait :)

  2. Janet Brown Says:

    Shaun Tan’s books are so beautiful that I always feel I should frame them rather than put them on a bookshelf.

  3. Sian Smith Says:

    The book is “Drac and the gremlin” by Allan Baillie and also illustrated by Jane Tanner, published about twenty years ago.

  4. Janet Brown Says:

    Sian, thank you! I am truly grateful, and so happy that now I might be able to find a copy or two.

  5. Corinne Says:

    I just checked my local library’s website and they have “The Arrival” on the shelf, so I will have to make a quick trip there today to check it out. Sounds great!
    I just finished reading “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” written by Brain Selznick. It is the story of twelve-year-old Hugo, an orphan living and repairing clocks within the walls of a Paris train station in 1931. When Hugo, meets a mysterious toyseller and his goddaughter, his undercover life and his biggest secret are jeopardized. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is novel of 525 pages but 300 of the pages are black and white drawings which help tell the story. It is a fabulous book which appeals to children as well as adults!

  6. janet Says:

    When I worked at a bookstore last year, The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a huge hit with adults there–one co-worker who was reading it aloud to her son at night finally couldn’t stand it and gobbled the whole thing in an evening once the bedtime story hour was over.

  7. Jane Tanner Says:

    Dear Janet,

    I am touched to read of your interest in my work. If you would like, l can post you a signed copy of “Drac and the Gremlin.” Both of the books you mentioned are among my most personal work….though l am happy to give you a couple of more recent picture books that mean a lot to me too….Perhaps, after all this time, you no longer check this entry….just a thought after discovering your entry this morning.