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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

Many A Tale To tell

Once upon a time there lived a very, very poor family. The father was a cobbler when he could get work and the mother was an illiterate washer woman. When the son was only eight, the father died after serving as a soldier in the wars and the mother was forced to spend nearly all her days working away from home so that they could survive. Often the son would be given a loaf and told that was his week’s food.

But, like all very poor people, the family believed in education even if all they could do was ensure the son could read and write; and when he was left all alone he did read whatever he could and he peopled his lonely world with the fruits of his imagination. He would play with one of the only gifts his father had left him; a puppet theatre that his father had built, and he would act out the myths and tales his mother told him.

A Crazy Love for Reading and Books

My name is Ella-Roisin. I am nine years old and for the first two days of my summer holidays I worked at Stella Books bookshop with my grandma Theresa who works at the desk. You might know her if you’ve been for a little visit to Stella Books. Working in a bookshop sounds boring but if you have a crazy love for reading and books it is the most fun work experience you can get.

While I am there, I don’t just sit behind the desk having a cup of tea and biscuits although I do when I’m having a break. I’m actually up on my feet most of the time. I scan books, send emails and deal with people buying and selling books.

Who's Tess?

We sadly lost our cat a few months ago, I cannot say I am a great cat lover, that seems to be Debbie’s role in our home, but Purdy as she was known was fat, lazy and knocking on a bit, so we had lots in common and got on reasonably well. Debbie was devastated by her death, and subsequent chats indicated there could be no quick replacement. If and when the time came to think about another cat in the house, it was said that it would be mature, male and tabby.

So the scene was set for me to return from work at Stella Books last Sunday evening, looking forward to a leisurely supper, only to be greeted upon opening the front door, by shouts of “quick, close the front door, I don’t want Tess to get out!” My immediate thought was “who’s Tess?”

Annuals

One of the greatest pleasures of my childhood was receiving an annual at Christmas. This usually came from a maiden aunt who always managed to choose one that was just right. I can still recall the hours of fun playing "Black Jake's Treasure" even though I can not remember the name of the annual that contained it. However I am sure that someone can enlighten me!

The point is that the annual was a surprise, and that it delighted. However, it was only recently that I found out a little of the history of the Annual. They seem to have appeared in the early 1800's, or at least that is when the word started to appear in the title. The contents were generally bound volumes of the weekly or monthly issues, occasionally with some extra material thrown in. It was possible for readers to choose the type of binding they could afford, which probably accounts for all the differing bindings that are found with "The Strand Magazine" for example. Luckily it soon became the practise to bind most of the magazines, which is why so many are still available now.

Illustrators of Alice

Since Alice In Wonderland was first published in 1865, followed by Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Saw There in 1871 (1st editions are dated 1872), hundreds of artists have illustrated these wonderful books with their fantastic characters. Many have depicted Alice in traditional style, while others have used their own style with these ranging from cute to outlandish. While not able to cover them all in the scope of this article, I hope to introduce you to a few which may be unfamiliar to you.

Alfa Romeo Day

My husband Steve (who is a bit of a petrol head) is currently restoring an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. He is a member of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club and each year the club have a National Alfa Day. This year we went along...

The event was held at Newby Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire and we had booked the tickets months in advance! We spent the night at a campsite not too far away from the venue at a little village called Minskip. It was a pleasant evening and we enjoyed a barbeque along with a fantastic sunset.

Sunday July 4th 2009. It's 10am and the sun is shining - great, looks as though it's going to be a warm day. There are already hundreds of Alfa Romeos on display and many more turning up as the minutes go by. Steve thinks he's died and gone to heaven!

Modern Children's Illustrators

My wife and I have been collecting children's books for over ten years now. It is a love affair that has developed unintentionally, purely due to our shared love of the subject.

We collect on two levels: firstly just books that we fall in love with - often illustrated by artists that we have never heard of, secondly from a commercial point of view, buying books that will appreciate in value.

So I will divide this article into two sections. First I will take a very brief look at current collectable children's illustrators that are rising in value, then a look at some of the very talented, though not yet so collectable illustrators.

Evelyn Everett-Green

Although Evelyn Everett-Green wrote about 350 novels, she is now forgotten and there is very little known about her life.  She did, however, live at that period of great social change from the lateVictorian / Edwardian society before the Great War through to the inter-war years of social reconstruction and the attempt to establish values by which a shattered and disillusioned society could be re-built. 

Like her almost exact contemporary, Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925), her writing reflects those years of great social change.  Like Rider Haggard, and also her earlier contemporary G. A. Henty (1832-1902), Evelyn's novels inculcate into her young middle-class readers those values of late Victorian and Edwardian England which inspired those who, by 1914, were old enough to volunteer as the subalterns and VADs who entered the Great War in the first flush of the enthusiasm of youth and who saw, if they survived, the end of the society in which they had been brought up. 

a love of board games

Apart from reading and books, one of my other loves is playing games - all games in fact - but Board Games in particular. Many a winter’s night or a rainy afternoon as child was spent playing games with my brothers and sisters .We would play for hours and we would learn how to cooperate but if the arguing over the interpretation of the rules got too loud my mother would always threaten to take the board away and then nobody would be the winner. We invariably quietened down as there was always great kudos in winning and I think there might even have been a league!

As an adult I still love to play Board Games and now I am able to pass this love on to my grandchildren, who like nothing more than coming over for a ’games’ weekend.

Louis Wain - Cat Book Illustrator

Louis Wain was born 5th August 1860, the eldest child of Roman Catholic parents who were employed in the textile industry. He was what was termed a 'sickly child'. He had a hare lip, and in his twentieth year he grew a moustache which he kept for the rest of his life; because of this it was hardly noticeable.

His first ambition was to have a career in music for which he claims he started a career as a violinist. He abandoned this in his mid-teens and signed up for the West London School of Art in 1877. There he studied until 1880 and then stayed on for a further three years as a teacher. Wain then decided to become an artist and left home to earn his own living. Wain's first published drawing was 'Bullfinches on the Laurels' featured in 'Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News' on 10th December 1881 under the erroneous title 'Robin's Breakfast'. He then joined the magazine on a permanent basis reporting on animal and agricultural shows around the country. Over the next few years, the magazine printed numerous black and white drawings by Wain including his first sketch 'Odd Fish' in 1883, and what was probably his earliest published cat picture 'Our Cats: A Domestic History'.

Norman Thelwell

Norman Thelwell is most famous for his humorous cartoons of little girls and their ponies. This however only scratches the surface of his life long passion for cartoons. He has had more that 30 cartoon books published on everything from Sailing to Dogs.

Thelwell was born in Birkenhead on May 3rd 1923, one of two sons of his parents Christopher and Emily Thelwell. The family lived in a terraced house which his mother kept spotless, Thelwell recalled that his mother thought "anyone who didn't move the wardrobes once a week was a bit suspect" When the young Thelwell could afford it he would always take the penny bus rides out to the country.

Thelwell could not remember ever being without his sketch book, even though his school, Rock Ferry High School, did not have an art room. His earliest surviving drawing is a pencil self-portrait done at the age of 10, on which his teacher had written in red ink: "V. good indeed". He left school aged 16 to become a junior clerk in an office. The second world war had already started by this time and he joined the army aged 18 in 1941, where he happily carried the extra weight of his sketch pad and paints.

Margaret Tarrant

Famous British illustrator Margaret (Winifred) Tarrant, was born in 1888 in Battersea. Her father, Percy Tarrant, encouraged her artwork being a landscape painter himself.

Tarrant's artwork showed promise early on when attending Clapham High School where she won awards for her drawings. After a period of time training to become an art teacher, Tarrant decided against going into teaching and instead became a full-time watercolour painter and illustrator.

Like her father, she produced paintings for publishers to use on postcards; some of her earliest were for publisher C.W. Faulkner in 1909. During the 1920s she had regular work with The Medici Society who used her romantic illustrations of children, fairies and animals to produce numerous prints, cards, booklets, calendars and books, all of which proved very popular.

Maurice Sendak

I was very saddened to hear in May this year of the death of one of the greatest children’s authors/illustrators of our time - Maurice Sendak. It seems therefore a good time to look back on the career of this remarkable man, remembered so fondly by so many, young and old.

Born on June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, USA, Sendak was the youngest of three children. Unfortunately he was also the frailest of the three and spent a fair bit of his childhood confined to bed. At the age of two and a half he was sick for thirteen weeks after contracting measles followed by double pneumonia! This is where his love of books and illustrations began as when he was confined to bed he would use his time drawing and sketching.

Arthur Rackham

What artist do you know that has illustrated classics including 'The Wind in the Willows' 'Peter Pan' 'Alice in Wonderland' 'The Sleeping Beauty' 'Cinderella' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Fairy Tales of theBrothers Grimm'?

Born in London, in 1867, Arthur Rackham's magical illustrations have attained a classic status, making his books among the most highly collected of all illustrated stories. Rackham himself however, has remained a shadowy figure, as elusive as the fairies and gnomes that inhabit many of his pictures. 

Left: Arthur Rackham, photograph taken c.1890

Right: 'A Fairy Song'. Pen & ink watercoulour, 1928-1929.

Eileen Soper

Eileen will inevitably be most famous for her illustrations in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Series , but there is so much more to be told. At one point she was running three careers in parallel; that of a respected wildlife author, a noted children’s illustrator and a commercial artists for among others The National Association of Mental Health Education and the Central Council for Heath Education.

Eileen was born in 1905, the second daughter of George and Ada Soper. When Eileen was three years old the family moved to a new house built by George in the Hertfordshire countryside. This house, christened Wildings by Eileen after her Fathers death in 1942, is where Eileen and her sister Eva spent most of their life. Eileen was a woman of extreme drive, single mindedness and business acumen who chose to isolate herself at Wildings with its large garden.

Jessie M. King

Jessie M. King is an illustrator's name I have heard many times since I started working at Stella Books but somehow I never seem to see any of her illustrations. Well, that all changed the other day when a copy of Mummy's Bedtime Story Book came into stock. It has one of those book covers which says to you "look at me!" with its bright colourful boards, yet having a certain essence about it which says "I am an old book". I find this an unusual combination as most of our pre-World War II children's books tend to either have bright pictorial wrappers or understated but elegantly decorated boards, not the brash colourful boards of this book. Anyway this has inspired me to do some research and try and find out some more about Jessie King.

Edmund Dulac

Edmund Dulac was born in Toulouse, France, on 22nd October 1882. His early life was influenced by his father, who was a commercial traveller in textiles and dealt with paintings on the side, and his uncle who sold Japanese prints. At a very early age Dulac began painting himself, with the oriental theme of his uncle's Japanese prints creeping in, forming his own much loved style.

Left: The illustrator Edmund Dulac

As a young man Dulac decided that he would venture to London and concentrate on magazine illustration; he settled in London permanently in the autumn of 1904.

Edmund Dulac was only 22 when he received his first important book commission. The publishers J.M.Dent approached him to illustrate a new edition of the complete novels of theBronte sisters. Dulac provided 60 watercolour illustrations for the 10 volumes which were issued between April and July 1905.

Quentin Blake

Sometimes it can be hard to place a metaphorical finger exactly on what it is that makes us enjoy a particular author or illustrator. But in the case of Quentin Blake surely it is his idiosyncratic use of fast yet precise pen strokes that convey exuberant movement and a sense of excitement.

Left: an example of Quentin Blake's energy-charged illustrations -"When we're trying to catch a mouse, We ALL JOIN IN". Taken from All Join In by Quentin Blake.

Right: "Yes, Dad," the son said. "I've got that." Illustration from Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Quentin Blake is one of Britain 's most popular and successful illustrators - indeed, to use a rather irksome phrase, it could be said that he is a 'national institution'. A prolific illustrator, he has provided the artwork for over 300 books by authors such as Michael Rosen, Joan Aiken and Russell Hoban. However, Quentin Blake is perhaps best known for his long-standing and remarkably successful collaboration with Roald Dahl in which he delighted audiences with depictions of favourite characters such as The BFG, Matilda and The Witches.

Edward Ardizzone

With a career spanning 52 years illustrating over 170 books,Edward Ardizzone was one of the most prolific illustrators of the 20th century and remains one of the most sought-after. His distinctive style is immediately recognisable with its cross-hatched pen and ink drawings and bright colourwash pictures. So how did this shy, quiet individual who started his working life as a lowly clerk come to be an established illustrator and official War Artist?

Edward Jefferey Irving Ardizzone was born in Haiphong, China on 16th October 1900 but it wasn't until 1905 that the family settled in England. His father Auguste was Italian by birth but became a naturalised Frenchman. His mother, Margaret, was half English and half Scots. Auguste spent his entire professional life working for the Eastern Telegraph Company while Margaret, having studied painting in Paris, continued to paint in water-colour after her marriage. It was she who influenced the young Ardizzone and encouraged him in his early artistic efforts.

Cecil Aldin

Cecil Aldin became a household name known for his paintings in the late 1800's. He produced a diversity of dog portraits andsporting scenes for which he had a steady flow of admirers. Less well known are his posters, chalk drawings of inns, manor houses, and cathedrals, superb equestrian pastels and, pencil & wash sketches of the countryside.

Born on 28th April 1870 in Slough, son of Charles Aldin, a builder, and his wife, Sarah. He was a wiry red-haired boy who started sketching by 6 years of age. His early drawings had a recurring theme of a rider being thrown from a horse, expressing his developing sense of humour.