The book has had its day, and the picture book, in particular is not viable; this appears to be the received wisdom at present. Well, not everyone agrees, Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur among them. Recently a packed event in the Foyles’ Gallery heralded the launch of their latest imprint, Flying Eye dedicated to publishing exciting and original picture books. Ferelith Hordon reports for Books for Keeps.
Sam and Alex both have backgrounds in the world of graphic art; Alex as an illustrator himself, Sam in the film world, particularly that of animation. Both are very creative and are committed to visual storytelling in ways both innovative and imaginative. Together they set up Nobrow in 2008 and began publishing. Through their iconic periodical, they wanted to play with format, colour, textures as well as content; nor did they see their audience as exclusively adult. However, though their ventures have proven successful – Nobrow 8 is now available – it became clear that they were not reaching a younger readership even though they were encouraging young talent and much of their material would have been enjoyed across a wide age range. Nevertheless, it was also clear that content, even in their more accessible publications was a potential problem. So Flying Eye was born; a specific children’s imprint with the same values as its parent; the creation of exciting and beautiful books with visual storytelling at their heart. For this, the imprint will look to showcase exciting artists from across Europe as well as discover new talent, especially British. This ambition is already clear in their debut list, where the first title , Welcome to your Awesome Robot has been created by Vivienne Schwarz. This has been followed by Akissi (Marguerite Abouet / Mathieu Sapin), a graphic strip set in the Coted’Ivoire following the life of a lively little girl; Akissi is well known in France. From Germany comes Topsy Turvy World (Atak), while the work of the Italian artist, Gabriella Giandeli, is featured in Monsters and Legends (Davide Cali/Gabriella Giandeli). Rounding off this first list is One night far from here by the French artist, Julia Wouters and moving across from Nobrow is Luke Pearson’s Hilda and the Midnight Giant.
To many the term ‘picture books’ means a book aimed at the youngest. Flying Eye books, however, are designed for an older readership – their catalogue states four years old and up. This definitely the case. These books should be on shelves in secondary schools to inspire future artists and excite young readers for whom words on a page present a barrier rather than a portal.
Welcome Flying Eye.
Ferelith Hordon is a children’s librarian and former Chair of the CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG).