Children’s books lose an innovative artist.
Betty Youngs, who died on 3 January after several years of incapacitating ill health, had a unique talent for needlework which she developed in a series of picture books for The Bodley Head. As a child, she had been told at school she couldn’t study embroidery and was therefore diverted into a career as a pharmacist, but she returned to art after her marriage and the birth of her only child, Richard. She then developed her own method of creating pictures out of threads and cloth, making her colours by dyeing her own silks. After selling some small pictures privately, and having some published as Gallery 5 greetings cards, her first book, Farm Animals was published by The Bodley Head in 1976. As a board book for babies, it was well ahead of its time. A book of embroidered nursery rhymes, Humpty Dumpty, followed in 1977; One Panda, an animal counting book, was published in 1980; and Pink Pigs in Mud, a first introduction for very young children to colour recognition, in 1982.
Reviewers were unanimous in their praise of her work, commenting on the ‘virtually strokable’ texture of her pictures, something that made them particularly appealing to children who would spontaneously put out their hands to touch the curly wool of the sheep in Humpty Dumpty or the fluffy koalas in – One Panda. At the time of her death, Betty Youngs was hard at work on a new book, Two by Two, based on the story of Noah and the ark. Although not complete in the form she had originally envisaged, all the important scenes of the story had been finished and the pictures are as vibrant in their colour and as original in their detail as anything she had previously produced. The Bodley Head will publish it in September 1985.