Sally Grindley reports on this year’s Mother Goose Award.
Winner: Patrick James Lynch.
The Mother Goose Award is alive and well and still being sponsored by Books for Children. Last year’s panel was unable to make an award (a sponsor’s nightmare). This year’s panel was bowled over by the number and quality of the submissions: 41 altogether, making a rich crop of new talent, much of it to be admired.
Top of the crop came Patrick James Lynch for his illustrations for Alan Garner’s A Bag of Moonshine. Amazingly, he doesn’t even warrant a mention on the cover, such is the eminence of the book’s author. But the more we looked the more we were impressed by the sheer accomplishment of Patrick Lynch’s work. He is manifestly talented with pen and ink, as much at home with soft cross-hatching as with heavier line and even silhouette. There’s a robustness and cheekiness about his interpretation of an extremely difficult text and, though the influences of Rackham, Ardizzone, Pienkowski and many others are very strong, there’s a definite individuality about much of his work which we hope will develop when he is given a freer rein. We felt that his colour work was more mundane and somewhat uneven in style, only to be expected in a newcomer, perhaps. But he cannot have been helped by the limitations imposed by the use of old-fashioned glossy colour plates in preference to a looser interweaving of colour.
We hope now that Patrick Lynch will be given the opportunity, via very different material, to develop his own style. It would be too easy for him to be typecast because of this one book and kept as a kind of utility-illustrator able to play in every position including goal but never being given a starring role. What a waste this would be!
On to the runners-up, in no particular order. Sue Scullard’s Miss Fanshawe and the Great Dragon Adventure could not fail to boggle the mind. We were dazzled by her extraordinary perspective-bending landscapes. Here is a book that finds its roots in the days of Sergeant Pepper and the psychedelic sixties. The detail is phenomenal and, not content to let you sit and look at the book from left to right and top to bottom, she makes you turn it round and look at it from different angles. She has an amazing talent for layout and ingenious visual effects. What is quite remarkable is that she should have taken so many risks with a first book. What will she tackle next?! We would like to see her develop a greater sense of movement, to loosen up, in order to find a specifically narrative flair that’s underplayed in this book.
Claudio Munoz’s Big Baby tore the panel asunder: we loved it, and hated it. But we decided that the story did not lend itself to award-winning visual interpretation, and that the artist had in fact done a very good job. He demonstrates a great sense of movement, a flair for the eye-catching angle of vision, and a good sense of humour and fun. There’s a punchiness about his work that’s difficult to resist, and he really knows how to use a page to take your eye where he wants you to look.
Dom Mansell’s interpretation of The Selfish Giant is a very accomplished and inventive piece of work.His approach to this classic tale is refreshingly informal and his use of colour is sparkling. The children are a lovely mischievous-looking bunch, and the giant ages beautifully without losing his identity. There is a Tony Ross-like humour about many of the pictures, in fact Ross’s influence is quite marked, but there are also a number of attractive individual touches and we hope that these will take over as the artist gains in confidence.
Finally, Peter Collington won a lot of admiration for Little Pickle and, more particularly, for its follow-up, The Angel and the Soldier Boy (which was ineligible). Here is an artist who already has his own marvellously distinctive style and a superb talent for carrying the narrative in visual form. No need for words, pictures can say it all. He uses the comic book layout with great confidence and has learned his craft well from people like Raymond Briggs and Herge. The most memorable aspect of his work is the degree of feeling that emanates, and an inherent primitive charm. He now needs to strengthen his use of colour and depth to avoid the flatness of some spreads.
So those were our top five, but there were so many other talented newcomers who came very close. Helen Ganly makes breathtaking use of collage in Jyoti’s Journey, a sensitive story about a little Indian girl’s reunion with her father in England. From collage to linocuts, with Jo Lawrence’s boisterous story about a homeless beard, called The Beard. We were pleased to see different media being used. And then there was Chris Riddell’s Mr Underbed with its great chunky monsters and huge sense of fun. He’s already well established and making a name for himself. There was the usual dearth of multicultural books and too little non-fiction – are they being saved for established artists or are they simply not around? But we finished full of optimism about the talented new people coming through. Don’t let’s lose them.
The judges this year were Anthony Browne, Sally Grindley, Charles Keeping, Lisa Kopper, Colin McNaughton, Anne Marley, Beverley Mathias and Chris Powling.
Sally Grindley is editorial director of Books for Children and also writes texts for picture books.
A Bag of Moonshine
Alan Garner, ill. Patrick James Lynch, Collins, 0 00 184403 2, £8.95
Miss Fanshawe and the Great Dragon Adventure
Sue Scullard, Macmillan, 0 333 39307 4, £5.95
John Ward, ill. Claudio Munoz, Walker, 0 7445 0528 3, £2.95
The Selfish Giant
Oscar Wilde, ill. Dom Mansell, Walker, 0 7445 0678 6, £5.95
Peter Collington, Methuen, 0 416 54780 X, £5.95