Jenny's Picture Book Review: 'Black & White' by Dahlov Ipcar

I recently discovered Dahlov Ipcar's books, when Flying Eye Press republished a selection of them, including 'Black & White'. Dating from 1963 the artwork has a real retro charm, and the story, about a black and a white dog who live next to each other in friendship was apparently inspired by the civil rights movement. Most of all though, this is a great book to read and share with kids with plenty to look at and learn.

The story centres on the dogs' adventures, and their dreams, introducing a miriad of black and white animals along the way as they venture into the dark jungle and the bright Arctic.

While Ipcar's style is bold and decorative and very appealing to children, the animals are accurately portrayed. The illustrations are very printerly with a limited colour pallette, and were made using a 4-colour process, which the staff at Flying Eye had to painstakingly recreate as the originals were lost. This might sound like boring technical information but the difference from modern digital full colour printing is obvious and intrinsic to this beautiful book.


Importantly, this book is great to read aloud to young children, with a pleasing rhyme scheme. In addition to all the animals to point out, there are spreads covered in butterflies, birds and fish which my daughter always likes to count, and we always have to pick our favourite.

I love the final page and it's pleasing closing lines, perfect for the moments before sleep:

'And each told the other his dream
Of the arctic storm and the jungle stream
And of all the animals black and white,
White as snow, black as night'

I must also mention the endpapers which are just GORGEOUS.

Amazingly, Ipcar, at the age of 98, is still working from her house in Maine. If you'd like to find out more this article from 2014 provides a good potrait.

Visit Flying Eye here. They currently publish four Ipcar titles - and lot of other highly desirable picture books.

Out and about: Children's Book Illustration Summer School at Anglia Ruskin

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a week long Children's Book Illustration summer school in Cambridge. A week away all by myself to be nothing but creative! 

The aim of the week wasn't to perfect illustration technique, but to create a dummy picture book that we presented to tutors and peers at the final crit (the ultimate 'storytime').  This would be a starting point for us to go away and create a finished book. 

It was an international affair with fellow students travelling from as far as Japan and Brazil just for the course (made my trip down the A1 seem a bit tame).

The week was a whirlwind as we were guided at speed through the process of creating a character, storyboarding and creating final roughs of our own story. This is something that would usually take months and was intensely challenging at times. Tutition was via one-to-one tutorials and created confidence-shattering lows when (inextricable) problems were exposed, and yippee-inducing highs as I found visual and narrative solutions and things fell into place.  The pace of progress was at times breathtaking and all 58 of us who attended came away with a very different story to the one we arrived with, and a totally new understanding of what makes a picturebook work.

Storyboarding and character developement - all at no-time-to-stop-and-procrastinate speed

Storyboarding and character developement - all at no-time-to-stop-and-procrastinate speed

The course was run by Pam Smy of Anglia Ruskin, who was ably assisted by Marta Altes (Author/illustrator of 'The King Cat', 'No!', 'My New Home' and 'My Grandpa'), Birgitta Sif ('Oliver' and 'Frances Dean'), Ness Wood (book designer who has worked with the greats) plus Dave Barrow and Natalie Eldred who are current MA students.  Their feedback was always insightful (and often cut deep!) and usually contradictory, leaving us, ultimately, to choose our own path. 

In addition to studio time, we were treated to lectures on different aspects of picture book production by the tutors and also a guest speech by Chris Haughton ('Oh No! George', 'A Bit Lost' and 'Shh! We Have a Plan').  

Chris Haughton delivering a lecture about his work

Chris Haughton delivering a lecture about his work

Some (!) of the books I brought home with me as souvenirs and inspiration.

Some (!) of the books I brought home with me as souvenirs and inspiration.

Did I see much of Cambridge? Nope - barely left the campus! 

All in all the week was intellectually exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. The range of stories (from the silly to incredibly profound) was fascinating and the inspiration from fellow students can't be underestimated. 

And I shall never look at a 'simple' picture book in the same way again!

(Wondering what my book was about? Ha ha, watch this space! One of the things we learned was not to give away our stories on social media ;))

Bloomfield & Rolfe's Top 5 Kids Books

It's Children's Book Week this week (an initiative of wonderful BookTrust) and this got us thinking about our favourite books from our childhoods.

The young Bloomfields enjoying some book time (drawing from Jenny's 'Drawing a day challenge' - click the image to visit her instagram page)

The young Bloomfields enjoying some book time (drawing from Jenny's 'Drawing a day challenge' - click the image to visit her instagram page)


Because everyone loves a list, here are both of our top 5s (in no particular order) - both of us went for nostalgia rather than anything more academically critical.


“Sadly, I have extremely patchy memories of pre-school picture books but very strong emotional ties to those of later childhood, the classic tales of adventure and imagination: 'The Secret Garden', 'Tom's Midnight Garden' and Helen Cresswell’s 'The Moondial' (are you sensing a theme here?!). Aside from these more 'grown-up' stories here are my five favourite bookish memories from childhood."


1. 'I Like This Poem' - edited by Kaye Webb
“I loved poetry as a child, both writing and reading it. I remember Kaye Webb’s classic ‘I like this poem’ always being near at hand, so soft and tattered now after years of use. Eleanor Farjeon’s ‘Cats sleep anywhere’ that I read aloud in assembly and Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘From a railway carriage' with its incredible pace and rhythm. I also really liked progressing through the chapters, based on age and delineated by beautiful monochrome illustrations. 12 seemed so far away…..”

2. 'No Time To Be Bored: Exciting things to make and do' - Eve Harlow
“Spending a lot of time alone especially pre-digital distraction meant even for a child who enjoyed her own company I would fairly often by heard exclaiming "I'm bored!" – only to be presented with the below; another retro classic, resurrected from the 70s by the looks of those stripes…”

3. The Adventures of Olga da Polga (series) by Michael Bond
“Guinea pigs traditionally have a sacrosanct place in our family as my sisters had them as kids so I'm assuming one of them must have given me the classic 'Olga da Polga' - all about a boastful and tall-tale telling Guinea pig.”

4. 'The Worst Witch' by Jill Murphy
"Who doesn't love the adventures of Mildred Hubble and magical pals? They were stirring cauldrons and rocking spells before Hermione’s parents had performed their first root canal.”

5. 'ANT and BEE and the Rainbow' by Angela Banner
"The one where they paint the old tyre to look like a rainbow! Just too cool – and ahead of their time when it comes to upcycling."



“In contrast to Holly, I have very strong memories of my picture books, perhaps because I have rediscovered many of them with my own kids. Some of the images are so etched into my subconscious they epitomise what they depict (see the Lucy & Tom book below).”

1. ‘Lucy & Tom at the Seaside’ by Shirley Hughes
“I could have picked any of the ‘Lucy & Tom’ series (sadly now out of print) as I know them all inside out, but I picked this because the illustrations are particularly beautiful. Apart from a dated reference to ‘going for a bathe’ it is still completely relevant and something of a guide of ‘what to do’ when you’re at the British seaside. My daughter loves it too.”
(see my review of ‘Lucy & Tom’s Christmas’ here)

2. ‘The BFG’ by Roald Dahl
“Don’t need to say much about this. Roald Dahl (and Quentin Blake) dominated my childhood and I think this is my favourite (at least it is today).”

3. ‘White Boots’ by Noel Streatfeild
“I was a little obsessed with this, and ‘Ballet Shoes’ too. I was the least likely child to be able to figure skate (or ballet dance) so I guess it was pure escapism.”

4. ‘Johnny the Clockmaker’ by Edward Ardizzone
“I never actually owned this as a child, but repeatedly borrowed it from the library, and my mum then bought me a copy as an adult. It is such a gentle story about a boy who makes a grandfather clock, despite everyone laughing at the idea (I like someone who has an idea and follows through!). Ardizzone’s illustrations are brilliant too of course.”

5. ‘Mr Magnolia’ by Quentin Blake
“I reviewed this one this week! Nonsense at its best!” (see the review here)





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Jenny's Picture Book Review: 'The Happy Lion' by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin

The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin

The Happy Lion is a Gallic joy: the titular lion has a contented life in the zoo where friends come to see him every day. When his door is left open and he goes for a walk around the town he discovers that the same people behave very differently. Bemused, he tries to find a friend.

The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin

In a limited palate (from the time before full colour digital printing), Roger Duvoisin's illustrations are so 'French' in all the right ways - maybe it's the use of line and texture to render all the wrought iron railings on the balconies. Sketchy, loose and full of character. Just lovely.

I have a hardback copy from the 80s but I was heartened to dicover in Waterstones the other day that it's back in print. I should also mention that listening to Mr B's French accent when reading the character names gets it an additional thumbs up. Hilarious.

The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin
 The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin