Designer Desire: Brian Wildsmith

Mosaic of Brian Wildsmith illustrations | H is for Home

As you may know, we’re massive fans of children’s book illustrations. We have vintage books in our collection by Miroslav Sasek, Bill Charmatz and Alain Grée amongst others. One illustrator we’ve admired for a long time, but don’t actually own any of his books, is Brian Wildsmith.

Wildsmith (who died in the summer of 2016) was an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator with a large portfolio of work behind him. His books were playful but educational at the same time and covered subjects such as ABCs, birds and other animals, fables and bible stories.

In an interview for the Independent newspaper in 2010, Brian Wildsmith explained his ethos:

[Before ABC] the text was the most important thing and pictures would just accompany it, diagrammatically explaining what was going on in the words. But I could limit my text so the illustrations explained what actually happened. And not just the physical event of what was happening, but the vision of the people or the animals or the landscape around them. I was expressing in colour the wonder and beauty of the world in which we live, which had never happened before, and would have been difficult to explain in words for children.

Some of his books are still in production, however, if you’re like us and prefer vintage copies – despite them sometimes being ‘read worn’ – there are always examples available on Etsy and eBay. We’re after a 1st edition of his Animal Gallery which teaches lots of the collective nouns like ‘a corps of giraffes’, ‘an array of hedgehogs’, ‘a herd of seahorses’ and ‘a troop of kangaroos’.

Portrait of Brian Wildsmith

Image credits:

Abe Books | Amazon | Hive

Designer Desire: Alain Grée

mosaic of Alain Grée illustrations | H is for Home

In this week’s Designer Desire, we’d like to introduce you to Alain Grée (if you’ve not heard of him already, that is). Eighty years old this year (2016), Grée is an illustrator, mainly known for his children’s books and board games.

Grée is an enthusiastic sailor – he’s crossed the Atlantic on his own ships – which can be seen in his very detailed educational books about ships, boats, the sea and sea creatures.

Luckily, Grée has had a very prolific output; his books (over 300) have been produced in large numbers and in 25 different languages. This means you can find examples of his work easily from outlets such as Etsy and Amazon.

His work is still being produced by RicoBel based in Ghent, Belgium who own the rights to his works. Button Books, based in the UK, stock a large stock of his early-years books, activity sets and flash cards.

Here’s a short film of the designer himself talking about how he created his books.

Image credits

Alain Grée | Sam Smyth | Flickr | Pinterest

This is Cape Canaveral

'This is Cape Canaveral' blog post banner

Vintage This is Cape Canaveral book with other titles in the series by Miroslav Sasek | H is for Home

We’ve just made a new addition to our collection of This is… books.

Vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book with cup of tea

It’s always a treat to make a brew and settle down with one of these gorgeous books for ten minutes – especially one we’ve never read before.

Vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book cover

Our new arrival is a first edition copy of This is Cape Canaveral dating from 1963. Later versions of this book were called This is Cape Kennedy and most recently, This is the way to the Moon.

Astronauts illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

As always, fabulous illustrations by Miroslav Sasek leap off every page.

Vehicle checkpoint illustration from 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

It’s a pleasure to share them with our readers – existing fans and perhaps a few new converts too.

Cameramen illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

 They’re insightful and very witty…

International newspaper headlines illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

 …and full of wonderfully observed detail.

Rockets illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

They’re beautifully drawn and capture the era perfectly.

Mercury Control Center illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

They also have a real sense of optimism about them.

'Welcome Back' illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

 We picked up this copy for £5 which was a real steal for a first edition.

Cape Canaveral gift shop illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

It’s always nice to get a bargain…

Satellite dish illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

 …and perhaps added just an extra tiny thrill as we thumbed through the pages!

Space available illustration from a vintage 'This is Cape Canaveral' book

We always buy the early editions and really love our little collection – Cape Canaveral makes it 11.

Pile of vintage 'This is...' books by Miroslav Sasek

A few more to go yet though – there are 18 in the series in total!

Charity Vintage: Denmark… a lovely land

'Charity Vintage' blog post banner

'Denmark... a lovely land' vintage children's book

We recently completed our World Dolls Series blog posts. Our series took us to Norway but it didn’t make a detour into any of the neighbouring Scandinavian countries.

Denmark… a lovely land, is set out as ‘a letter from Denmark’. It’s addressed to ‘Nina’ and gives her an insight into the country with the help of a music score, black & white photos and lovely colour illustrations. The book looks to date from the 1950s and was written by Inger Oppenhejm with illustrations by Laus Lauesen.

It’s up for sale by & in support of The Martlets Hospice* at a ‘buy it now’ price of £13.50 with free postage.

*The Martlets Hospice is an independent charity, caring for adults with a life limiting disease where a cure is no longer possible, in the Brighton and Hove area. Specialist palliative care is provided for patients. Support is given to families and carers during the patients’ illness and into bereavement.

World Dolls Series: Russia

'World Dolls Series' blog post banner

World Dolls Series - Russia book cover

So, here we are in Russia for our next stop in the World Dolls Series.

World Dolls Series - Russia front inside book cover

Illustrations are by D.White from the Birmingham School of Design. We’re not sure that they listened to the brief properly as our guides are all supposed to be dolls – the clue’s in the title – World DOLLS Series. We seem to have been given a couple of rustic farmers. Ironically, Russia probably has the most famous dolls in the world.

Boris and Anna, dolls from World Dolls Series - Russia

Anyway, we’re sure Boris & Anna are a lovely couple.

Boris and Anna, dolls from World Dolls Series - Russia

There you go – Boris is throwing us a wave – and is that a glimmer of a smile?

working in fields from the World Dolls Series - Russia

Perhaps there’s not much to smile about on the collective farm! Hard graft and huddling round the stove for the long winter apparently.

winter in Russia from the World Dolls Series - Russia

There’s no doubting that the other books in the series have been a tad lighter, more carefree & fun.

wrapping feet in cloth against frostbite from the World Dolls Series - Russia

Life certainly seems quite tough in 1960s Russia.

illustration of the Kremlin and Red Square from the World Dolls Series - Russia

Perhaps a few days sightseeing in Moscow will be fun. Look at the party atmosphere.

illustration of boys playing with a train set from the World Dolls Series - Russia

There are a games at ‘the club’ – and a bit of sunbathing at the Black Sea. Is that President Khrushchev sitting on the right monitoring the deck chair situation?

illustration of people relaxing in deckchairs on the beach at the Black Sea from the World Dolls Series - Russia

We’re off to Norway next – we’ve invested a lot of money in warm clothing which might come in useful. We’ve always wanted to tour around Scandinavia, so we can’t wait to get there.

World Dolls Series: Italy

'World Dolls Series' blog post banner

'Italy' front cover from the vintage World Dolls series of books

We’ve crossed the border and travelled from Germany to Italy in the World Dolls Series – we’re certainly clocking up the miles! 🙂

'Italy' front inside cover from the vintage World Dolls series of books

The lovely illustrations are by Philippa Walters this time.

Map of italy from the vintage World Dolls series of books

Our guides are Lisa & Pietro. They’re a cheery couple, always singing & dancing. Pietro with his guitar & Lisa with her tambourine.

Gondola in Venice in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

We’ve spent the last few weeks watching the hard-hitting & brilliant Gomorrah on TV – as you might imagine this is a more light-hearted view of Italy! We start in the North with its mountain scenery and work our way down to the hot & sunny South – taking in cities like Venice & Rome.

Lisa and Pietro dolls in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

The pretty villages & harbours are much celebrated – along with the stunning countryside.

criss-crossing washing lines hung with washing

These narrow streets & steps are a classic scene that springs to mind when we think of the Mediterranean holidays that we’ve taken.

Procession of worshippers in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

There are lots of processions & festivals too – and pretty whitewashed houses with painted shutters, ornate railings and flowers in pots. See, we told you it wasn’t Gomorrah.

Balcony with flowers in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

Makes us want to pack a small rucksack and jump in a camper van. I’m sure they could do with a hand (or foot) for the grape treading.

Grape-pickers in 'Italy' the vintage World Dolls series of books

Join us next time when we’ll be in Austria.