I had a bit of trouble deciding where to categorize Emily Gravett for GatheringBooks. Should she be placed in the Meet the Storyteller section or the Illustrator’s Sketchpad section, seeing that she is both illustrator and storyteller. Thankfully, she answered the question in her feature on 7ImpossibleThings where she apparently feels “more comfortable saying illustrator.” One problem solved. A million more rabbits to go.
I was introduced to Emily Gravett by John McKenzie, a Senior Lecturer based in Canterbury, New Zealand. In one of his two lectures that I attended during the Asian Festival of Children’s Content here in Singapore last May 2010, he brought Wolves, one of Emily’s books.
After being exposed to one of her works, I just knew I had to check out more of her books. Hence, to the NIE library I went and literally checked out all four books to the endless amusement and glee of my 8 year old daughter.
In Emily Gravett’s official website, she shares with her avid readers the process as to how she develops her work. Yup, she’s a Photoshop user, ladies and gentlemen (all hail Adobe CS5!!), she uses a digital pen as well – this is actually the one I was looking for, but I got my Intuos 4 instead where I have to switch my attention from my sketches/colors in the tablet to the screen to see what is going on.
In this youtube clip of her drawing workshop, she shows us how she magically does her Rabbit drawings, how she scans it in her computer, photoshop it, and the rest as they say, is rabbit history.
Latest Work: The Rabbit Problem
Her latest work The Rabbit Problem, unfortunately is only available in Reserve at the NIE Library – would have to probably order this in Amazon. Her description of this book in 7-imp indicates that this might be a huge hit here with Singaporean educators since it is “based on the mathematician Fibonnaci’s sum to work out how many rabbits would be in a field after one year, if he started with just two (male and female).”Given the highly-mathematical thrust of the SG Educational system, this would be a fun fun fun (did I just say fun three times?) way through which a child can be introduced to the (in)famous Fibonnaci.
Emily’s Creative Pathways
When she was asked in 7-imp what her creative process is like, she noted that while there are times when ideas pop out of nowhere (which she termed as “brilliant gifts”), there are also occasions when it’s more complicated than that. The usual end result as she noted in the 7-imp interview is:
“a mish-mash of watercolours scanned in to my computer alongside scraps from my sketchbook, maps, wallpaper, paper bags, tickets, and anything else that I think might work well for that book. I spend a lot of hours fiddling with bits in Photoshop. I like the books to be a combination of good drawing and good design. They’ve also got to be able to make me smile.”
The seemingly-constant thing is that she is not without her sketchbook, because she just doodles a great deal of the time. In the book Spells, the flapjack where the author is described could be read as such:
“As a child Emily Gravett was desperate to become a witch. She spent her time trying to fly and attempting to cast spells on people who called her sweet. After many years (and a particularly nasty incident involving a broomstick and some stairs) she decided to become an illustrator instead.”
Brief Juicy Background
In the PanMacmillan Interview of Emily Gravett, she shared that she is the daughter of an art teacher mother, and a printmaker father who works as a technician in the local polytechnic (both highly artistic genetic lineage, as we can see here, my academic gifted-ed trained mind is now working overdrive, but I digress).
She left home at age 17 and became, in her words in the interview, a “New Age Traveller” for eight years. She settled down in a (what I envision to be a charming and rustic) “cottage in Wales” when she finally got pregnant. Her journey towards becoming a writer/illustrator was ignited by her reading picture books to her very young daughter. She eventually got a BA course in illustration at Brighton University where she went on to make books. And the rest, as they say, is Rabbit/Wolves/Mice/and Meerkat worldhistory.
Wolves was Emily’s debut picture (and dare I say postmodern) book where she won the Kate Greenaway Medal for 2006. It also won the Nestle Children’s Book Prize Bronze Award Winner for 2005. In addition to its winning the Macmillan Prize for Illustration in August 2005. To say that it was published with “great acclaim” would be doing it an absolute injustice.
I remember John avidly reading Wolves aloud during the AFCC conference to around 15 or 20 teachers, teacher educators, storytellers and illustrators. What I particularly love about this picture book is the fact that it uses mixed-media and collages in unique and wondrous ways. It is as Sophie’s World goes, a story within a story, with Little Rabbit picking out the book entitled Wolves as written by Emily Grrrabbit.
As the reader flips through the pages, one could imagine how Little Rabbit himself goes through each page: there is complete authenticity what with the call number of West Bucks Public Burrowing Library laminated onto the page.For Singaporean educators, I believe the fact that it is riddled with some factual information about wolves (“An adult wolf has 42 teeth. Its jaws are twice as powerful as those of a large dog”) would be a good come-on.
The reader is likewise regaled with the seemingly-odd and increasingly-fearful way through which the Wolf has (could it truly be?) jumped out of the page. The story ends with a laminated letter from the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library to inform Little Rabbit that the book Wolves is way overdue. How and why Little Rabbit was unable to return the lovely red book, I leave to your overactive imagination.
This enchanted book of incantations is cleverly written and illustrated by Emily Gribbitt err Gravett. It talks of an overambitious frog who wishes to be a Prince.My daughter and I had so much fun reading this with so many voices and with a great deal of variations. You see somewhere in the first quarter of the book, the pages are cut into halves, so the reader is able to make potent combinations that might just showcase unusual results
Or not so-nice outcomes. Tsk tsk.
This is what postmodern picture book truly is – it has all the ingredients of the classic fairy story, the frog, the prince, potions, and the princess’ kiss. How the story ends, again, I shall entrust to your ribbitty mind.
LITTLE MOUSE’S BIG BOOK OF FEARS
This book is a graffiti-doodle nightmare of any officious librarian who would tear her hair out if she sees any kind of writing in the page. This page alone would generate a lot of sleepless nights.
And as is the usual style of Emily Gravett, she intersperses factual information with collages and plain crazy doodles. As a clinical psychologist who used to teach Abnormal Psychology in an undergraduate class, I am amused to see actual clinical words like Hydrophobia, Aichmophobia, Arachnophobia, Ornithophobia with a make-up word such as Whereamiophobia (fear of getting lost).
This book is just a visual and tactile feast. My personal favorite is the Visitors’ Map of the Isle of Fright.
Had I been teaching Abnormal Psychology, I would have definitely brought this book for a read-aloud as I teach Anxiety Disorders.
And as always, the ending’s peculiar twist is just sheer genius (along with the amazing illustrations).
This is the third book that was published by Macmillan along with Wolves and Orange Pear Apple Bear. Noting Emily’s not-so-distant voyager/trekker lifestyle, I can not help but draw parallelisms to Sunny Meerkat’s undeniably-itchy feet. Once again, it provides the reader with a smidgen of information about meerkats and what they are like, as Sunny visits relatives, friends, and whathaveyou, because he wanted to get away from the “too close” relationships that he had at home. As Sunny noted:
“they do everything together. They are VERY close. Sometimes Sunny thinks they are TOO close.”
The touching aspect of the story is how Sunny found “home” amidst seven beautifully-illustrated postcards he sends home so as not to worry his family, and to let them know his whereabouts. In the postcards, there are also information such as “Dwarf Mongooses under threat are too small to defend each other. Instead, they disperse to find safety.”
Clearly, it not only touches on first-hand factual knowledge that children can lap up, absorb and learn with such ease because it is clearly interwoven in the tale, (perfect for any educator), the story also speaks of very potent socioaffective issues such as searching for one’s identity, differentiating one’s self from one’s family, and finding one’s roots through emotional reintegration. Stuff that children’s books are made of, yes.
Emily Gravett is pure Gribbitty, Grabbity Genius. Make sure your kids experience her books.
Sources:Official Website of Emily Gravett: http://emilygravett.com/ 7 Impossible Things for Breakfast (our favorite site of all times): http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1606 - An Interview with Emily Gravett: http://www.panmacmillan.com/displayPage.asp?PageID=4309 A Feature on Emily Gravett by Guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/feb/27/booksforchildrenandteenagers Blog Sources for the images: 7 Impossible things for breakfast (Emily Gravett’s Picture) B is for Books (The Rabbit Problem) http://www.thaolam.com/blog/?p=476 Lucy Youngman’s Blog (Wolves) http://klucylu.wordpress.com/2009/01/ TimesUnion Blog, a Parenting website (Wolves) http://blog.timesunion.com/parenting/2056/wolves-a-twisted-tale-for-easter/ Scott Evans Illustration (Wolves) http://sevans123.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/emily-gravett/ Shelf Elf in WordPress (Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears) http://shelfelf.wordpress.com/2007/10/27/ Jean Little Library Blogspot (Spells) http://jeanlittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2009/11/spells-by-emily-gravett.html Three Men in a Tub Sketchblog (Meerkat Mail): http://threemeninatub.blogspot.com/2008/01/emily-gravett.html NIE Library for lending me all four books and my trusty Sony Cybershot for the pictures I have taken of the books