Tuesday 30 June 2009

The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick - picture books make me feel like drawing

I had a fabulous surprise in the post yesterday. Wrapped in plain brown paper, this book arrived. It was from Sarwat - author of the unputdownable goth lit adventure Devil's Kiss - who has just come back from his triumphant first BEA (marred only by the small matter of being mistaken for a terrorist at the airport in New York).

Sarwat harvested a massive haul of books at BEA which he duly shipped back to London and offered up on his blog on a first come, first served basis. I of course leapt at the offer.

And here it is - The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick, the guy who wrote and illustrated The Invention of Hugo Cabret, winner of the Caldecott Medal. I just stared at it for many long minutes. Check out the illustrations on the inside pages:

The text was sparse and the cross-hatched pen and ink drawings were lush.

I was so bowled over that I grabbed my sketchpad, brushed off the cobwebs and spent the evening drawing.

See what one picture book can do?

Our new Children's Laureate Anthony Browne, writing in today's Education Guardian, said:

Most adults will tell me: "I can't draw!" Children, too, as they get older, say the same thing. Something happens to our creativity as we go through the education process; most of us lose touch with it. A stifling form of self-consciousness invades us, whether it be in drawing, writing, singing or (in my case) dancing...

Just before this unhelpful self-consciousness creeps into children, many of them are encouraged to move away from picture books and move into "chapter books" - books without illustrations. Perhaps there's a connection? Read it all

We need more books like The Houdini Box.


  1. Ooh, it looks stunning! Those illustrations are wonderful - and I love your sketches. Browne's comment is so sadly spot on.

  2. Read more, draw more, post more (I think I met that baby....is it the one I'm thinking of??)


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