Lost in Picture Book Maps

This post first appeared on Picture Book Den’s Blogspot 01 Marina 01My First Maps
My first map-love as a child was my grandfather’s Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World. 02 Readers DigestNow I own it, but I used to just visit it at my Grandpa’s house. It was really big, big enough for a small child to be lost in, and my grandpa Noel Grey had inscribed his initials NWG on all the places he had visited, prospecting for oil I suspect. Here he is at large around South America.

03 NWG
Here’s a photo he took of Ernest Hemingway with an enormous marlin – apparently they went fishing together. 04 HemingwayOn one map he has urgently written GOLD, somewhere along the Amazon, in Peru. 05 Gold!
There’s a bit of a diagram too.

06 GOLD here

I started writing this post before the fires in the Amazon had beome the terrifying news they are now. From this perspective my Grandfather’s charting of ‘GOLD’ is a bit bitterly ironic; anyone with any sense now knows that the most precious treasure to be found in the Amazon is the rainforest itself

 Maps of Discovery, Power and Plunder
07a pudding
A map is a place to roam about in the imagination. A map is a record of the discovered and the undiscovered – terra incognita. A map is a plan for plundering, or a diagram of how to carve the world up, a record of ownership.

Here is the Carta marina, a wallmap of Scandinavia, by Olaus Magnus. It is the first map of the Nordic countries to give details and place names, initially published in 1539.09 carta

It seems to be awash with splendid mythical beasts. Did the map-maker think they were real, or was drawing the map of the far-away giving them permission to invent the most bizarre creatures they could concoct? Creatures include a literal sea-cow and sea-unicorn, whales with flowing tresses, a sea-elephant or Rosmarus and a Polypus which looks like a giant lobster. But it looks like Magnus was trying to depict what was really there – the land animals are fairly realistic, and many of the sea-creatures could be reinventions of existing ones: the sea unicorn: a narwhal, the Rosmarus: a walrus, the Polypus perhaps an octopus. Because they’re water beasts they are hard to get the measure of without diving equipment. Here are a selection of map-beasts:

10b sea hog

Probably a whale but quite boar-like

10c sea scorpion

a Polypus, allegedly

10d it has everything

This has everything

10a whale

a Belena – whale – with an orca

You can explore the monsters here:

Mulling with a Map11 Hobbit

‘I wisely started with a map and made the story fit,’ JRR Tolkien once wrote.

In older children’s books, a map may well be the only illustration. The map is often a charting of the story journey.
When inventing the Hobbit story JRR Tolkein started with drawing Thror’s map.12a Thrors map
Drawing the map was part of the process of creating the story.

Here’s the map from Winnie the Pooh, drawn by Christopher Robin, with a bit of help from Ernest Shepard,14 Winnie the Pooh
and the map from the beginning of the Narnia book of the Horse and his Boy, mostly desert (by Pauline Baynes.)13a horse and boy

As it was sometimes the only picture in the book I would return to the map again and again, and trace my protagonist’s journey and mull over the places on the way.
And maps lend a touch of reality – a promise that the story may take you to real places.

When Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift was published in 1726 it was a roaring success but some did not realise it was fantasy.
“It is full of improbable lies, and, for my part, I hardly believe a word of it” exclaimed an eminent bishop. The Duchess of Marlborough was said to be ‘in raptures at it; she says she can dream of nothing else since she read it.’ A tale circulated about one old gentleman who, after reading the book, was alleged to have gone immediately to his atlas to search for Lilliput.

Here’s my map for Money Go Round by Roger McGough – as this book is deep in Wind in the Willows territory I had to start with communing with EH Shepard’s Willows map.15 MGR02&03

Picture Book Story Maps21 Zoo Rules
Moving to more picture book territory, a map can be a journey or a map of characters or events.
Here’s Dixie O’Day’s Map from Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy.Dixie

It is used by Dixie in the story and we can find where every event happens in an extremely satisfying way

16 Dixie ODay

Very Little.From a map of events to a map of characters: here is the map from Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy and Sue Heap – the places are the people.17 Very Little Map
I can’t resist putting in these fresh and lovely animated spreads of the poor wolf getting more than it can deal with from Very Little Red.18 Very Little 0119 Very Little 02

Cat who got carriedIn The Cat Who Got Carried Away by Allan Ahlberg and Katharine McEwen there are three very important maps.
Here’s the first one.20 Allan Ahlberg
And, oh, how delicious – we can see the cars and the characters and the shady old geezer with the suspicious pram and Horace the cat. This is a useful map of a particular moment, which shows exactly where the pram is, and white van skulduggery, and the impending fate of Horace the cat.

Jim CoverWhen I was making the book of Jim, the cautionary tale by Hilaire Belloc, I wanted to put in a map of the zoo where Jim meets his lion.22 Jim 0123 Jim 02
Jim has a yearning to run away, and when I was making the book there seemed to be more and more health and safety rules appearing everywhere and children seemed to be getting less and less freedom. So the Zoo Map is a map of the Safest Zoo in the World, one where everything is either shut or off-limits or prohibited.24 Jim 04
To make sure everything is completely safe, there are Zoo Rules on the back of the map.24a Jim 04

 Metaphorical Maps, Maps of the Soul25 Goth intro

DarktownHere is Jonny Hannah’s Dark Town map from Greetings from Dark Town – complete with leviathans, Island of Profound Quotes, Sea of Impossibilities and beasts and more beasts.26 Dark Town

The first metaphorical map may have been for Pilgrim’s Progress, which also may have been one of the first novels (fictional prose narrative) in English. (Interestingly, other early novels include Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels, both map-centred-adventure territory.) In Pilgrim we encounter unforgettable fictional places: the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, the House Beautiful, The Valley of the Shadow of Death.27 Pilgrims Progress

Here’s the Map of Ghastly Gorm Hall from Goth Girl, by Chris Riddell.Goth Girl
28 goth girl bigNote the Hall has an East Wing and a West Wing, but also a Broken Wing. As well as a Kitchen Garden, the Hall is complete with Bedroom Garden and Living Room Garden.29 Goth 01
I’m planning my garden improvement already.
One can meander round Metaphorical Smith’s Hobby-Horse Racecourse – with its Hill of Ambition, Gravel Path of Conceit, and Pond of Introspection.30 Goth 02

My Map BookIn Sara Fanelli’s My Map Book –we find a Map of my Heart, a Map of my Day.31 Fanelli Heart Map32 Fanelli Day Map

We’re wandering into maps that are states of mind, a map of how you feel, a map of time.
Little MouseOne of my absolutely favourite picture books is Emily Gravett’s Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears. Mouse battles his terrors with the power of drawing. The book is extremely nibbled and so is Mouse’s pencil.34 Little Mouse Map closed35 Little Mouse Map open
Here is the Map of the Isle of Fright, where the visitor can travel from Twitching Whiskers to Loose Bottom.36 Little Mouse Map open

And now – Exclusive to Picture Book Den: 
Cut Out & Keep: Make Your Own Metaphorical Landscape Generator.  

Simply cut out, combine randomly from column A and B and use the places created to make your own Metaphorical Landscape.Generator


Impossible Maps 37a Space map

Making a map gives you freedom to map the impossible, to lose yourself in your scale of choice.
In A Boy & Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton – here’s a map of nowhere. It’s almost not a map at all.37 Boy and Bear 02

Here’s the map on the cover of the book (from the original hardback version)38 Boy&BearBig
No features at all. Except a mug ring. But then, look again….squinting closely– there are two black splots.

39 Boy&BearSplots
Focus in on one and it’s – yup, just a squashed fly.40 Boy and Bear fly
Then let’s pull right in on the other splot – I definitely see oars there.41 Boy and Bear boat

The scale of the bleak emptiness is immense, and I feel like I am falling through infinity.

SDPBsmallMy book Space Dog started with thinking about making a space map. My son Herbie had a brilliant rocket toy. It came from the Early Learning Centre.42 rocket

It was shaped a bit like a kettle with a handle, and you could fly it all round your home, exploring the Cistern System, the Pastaroid Belt and the Outer Spooniverse.
I wondered – what would space look like if the whole of the universe was actually everything in your house, in disguise. So here we have some Space Map Planetoids:40 Bo43 plantoids
FryUp42 with its ketchup volcanoes, the steamy planet of Bathtime 37 and Cornflake 5 and Bottleopolis which are in the Breakfast Cluster.43 Space Map Photo

The Space Map was Space Dog’s endpapers, but, alas, they only appeared in the hardback version.44 SD Space Map

Download your own space map bits here, and make your own Space Map.

Maps and the Imagination45 Haute Cuisine

Take some words, maybe these ones which are a list of some things you might forget:46 forgettables
Take a diagram of some islands, maybe these ones:47 Isles of Forgetfulness no text
Put them both together, and what have you got?
The Isles of Forgetfulness.48 Isles of Forgetfulness

This page comes from The Atlas of Experience by Louise van Swaaij and Jean Klare, which charts the human journey through life, with maps drawn in Subjective Projection and reproduced in Unimaginable Scale.

50 Atlas of Experience

Maps demonstrate the alchemy of words and pictures, that magic picture book double act. Words & Pictures and your imagination are doing the work of together creating a whole new thing. And because your imagination helped make it, it’s unique. So the map is words and pictures glued all together with a tremendous projection of imagination.

Falling into a Map, endless Maps51 tiny banner

My dream is to be able to actually fall into a map and find myself in another world that I can explore. Or to find a map that I can zoom into or out of forever…from the microscopic atomic scale to the intergalactic.

TinyIn Tiny by Korky Paul and Paul Rogers, Tiny is a flea on the back of a dog called Cleopatra living at No 72 Hilltop Road.52 Tiny house
Korky Paul’s marvellously detailed pictures pan out from hairs to streets to islands to planets.53 Tiny town.psd
But every time I can still spot the dog, find the house still recognisable at a smaller scale.54 Tiny island
I know if I zoom back in I’ll be able to find EVERYTHING there, every bird, fish, person, dog, insect, molecule. (I love that giant octopus.)

To end with I’m going to tell you about one of the very first picture book maps I ever made.55a Laputa Map

Heres the flying island of Laputa

It was for a student project, adapting Gulliver’s Travels.55b Laputa Map
The first page opens out to show Gulliver’s desk and his map.55c Laputa Map
In the map you can make out Gulliver abandoned in a rowing boat, and the flying Island of Laputa about to come over and pick him up.55d Laputa Map
What I really really wanted was for you to be able to zoom in enough to for you to be able to see the waves rippling the water, to smell a bit of spray and hear some seabirds. I did (sort of, badly) manage to do this when I animated my book and falling into the map 55 Laputa Mapbecame the beginning of Gulliver’s adventures on the crazy island of Laputa.

56 flying island

Here’s the flying island of Laputa

A map is a place to roam about in the imagination. A map is a record of the discovered and the undiscovered. A map is a plan for plundering, or a diagram of how to carve up the world. A map is a journey, a story, a cast of characters, a portal.

I’ve always been obsessed with the small world. Small worlds are where we are animators as children: the doll’s house, the micro city you made among tree roots, the box of plastic dinosaurs and farm animals ready to journey down the garden. A map is a model world, and in picture books maps can come alive, using the power of words and pictures and your imagination and mine, in yet another feat of picture book magic.

PS:  Interested in maps and in Oxford? There’s an wonderful exhibition – Talking Maps –  at the Bodleian Library you might like to visit. Details here.

Tales from the riverbank

A wander into the world of Wind in the Willows

This post first appeared on Picture Book Den’s Blogspot.

01 ToadAs a child I watched far too much TV. There was a show called Tales of the Riverbank. The stars of the films were real animals, who were shown moving around in miniature boats, cars, balloons and aeroplanes. I loved seeing rodents rushing downstream in rickety water-crafts.02aa tales of the riverbank

02aa riverbankI live near the river in Oxford, and there’s nothing I’d be so excited to see as a water-vole rowing a tiny boat down the Thames.02 tales of the riverbank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original messing about in boats is of course in The Wind in the Willows. And I’ve recently finished making the illustrations for a story set slap-bang in Wind in the Willows territory, so in this post I’m going to have a look at Kenneth Graham’s book and some of its illustrators. I want to consider the challenges of illustrating in the Willows Zone, and how the Willows, the most comfortingly nostalgic of books, was actually shivering with premonitions of the modern world.03a W inW first edition

The book was published in 1908, but it wasn’t until 1931 that EH Shepard illustrated it. To me EH Shepard’s pictures are as much a part of Wind in the Willows as the text – so I was surprised to discover they weren’t there at the beginning.

Grahame didn’t live long enough to see the book released with Shepard’s illustrations, but their meeting would be reported by Shepard in a 1950s edition of the classic, as follows:

“Not sure about his new illustrator of his book, he listened patiently while I told him what I hoped to do.

Then he said ‘I love these little people, be kind to them’.

Just that; but sitting forward in his chair, resting upon the arms, his fine handsome head turned aside, looking like some ancient Viking, warming, he told me of the river nearby, of the meadows where mole broke ground that spring morning, of the banks where Rat had his house, of the pool where Otter hid, and of Wild Wood way up on the hill above the river.04 shep boat

…He would like, he said, to go with me to show me the river bank that he knew so well, ‘…but now I cannot walk so far and you must find your way alone’.”

Grahame was living in Pangbourne near the Thames – and at other times he lived in Cookham, also on the River Thames – so to me, the river running through the book is always the Thames – which bubbles up in Gloucestershire and flows through Oxford, Reading, Henley and Windsor and eventually becomes the great river that snakes through London on its way to the sea. Mole, on his escape from white-washing, is captivated by the river; it “chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”03 W inW Map

The Wind in the Willows has been rich ground for re-illustration. To me EH Shepard’s illustrations are part of its fabric, like Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice, but still both books are big enough to inspire reinvention.

And so far, in all the versions I’ve seen, the animals are wearing clothes.

Animals in Clothes

I have love-hate feelings about dressed-up animals. I really don’t like animals that seem to have human bodies under their animal heads. But if their body-shape seems to be the stumpy innocent sort of shape of an animal, then it’s OK.

Some animals seem to need more dressing up than others. As a child I used to adore these animal illustrations for the Woodland Happy Families game by Racey Helps.07 woodland happy families

I love Mrs Frog’s expression as she gazes at her cheerily waving tadpole. My sister Jo and I used to play long and involved imaginary games with these cards as our avatars: – Jo was the glamorous Miss Rabbit and I was the slightly homelier Miss Mouse.08 woodland happy families

I do admire how Racey Helps’s animals are truly animal under their clothes – and have a look at Mrs Owl’s delicious pie. (Eeek. Don’t tell Miss Mouse.) The Woodland Happy Families are sometimes fully dressed complete with shoes, like Miss Fox, but other times just lightly accessorised, like Miss Robin. Master Frog is as nature intended as he goes for a swim, but Mr Frog has full sailor garb including little boots… (So how DO those flippers fit in? Better to skim quickly over questions like this when considering animal-dressing.)

With EH Shepard the main characters are completely suited and booted. But the weasels and stoats just have the odd bag and hat – so it seems the less civilised & well-behaved you are, the less you wear. But then there’s practicality too: those swimmers Otter and his son Portly don’t wear clothes either.09 otter

15 Inga Moore

Inga Moore

09 shep fightHere’s the battle of Toad Hall: Badger, Mole, Toad and Ratty are all showing their claws and teeth like proper animals on the warpath. The tiny weasels seem to have abandoned any pretence at civilisation and become pure animal as they scuttle away in terror. There is a bit of animal stereotyping in Wind in the Willows: weasels are actually brave, fierce and bonkers little animals – but in Wind in the Willows, as Ratty says: “well, you can’t really trust them, and that’s the fact.” It could be that the uprising of the less-well-dressed animal underclasses foreshadows the social upheaval of the First World War, and the unwinding of the Edwardian age of servants and huge hampers.

Here’s the same scene pictured by Inga Moore. Again, the weasels are just minimally accessoried and you can imagine the blood-curdling war-growls coming from Badger.

Here they are getting weaponed up for the battle.06a shep mole2

I love Mole’s hunched and determined posture.06 shep mole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Inga Moore

Inga Moore

Here’s Shepard’s Mole again doing a leap, with its stumpy rounded shape, true to animal form.

Here is Inga Moore’s Mole strolling through a glorious landscape.

10 rack01

Arthur Rackham

The Wind in the Willows was the last book Arthur Rackham illustrated.

11 shep

EH Shepard

Here’s his Ratty loading up the boat with that all-important luncheon basket. To me Rackham’s animals seem more human in form than Shepard’s, with longer limbs and more human knees and elbows.

Here’s the same scene from EH Shepard.

17 Ingpen

Robert Ingpen

Some glowingly depicted scenes by Robert Ingpen.

18 Ingpen

Robert Ingpen

But let’s return to the luncheon basket.

12 shep

EH Shepard

The Luncheon Basket

C.105.f.3, Opposite  p.22

Arthur Rackham

Here are Shepard’s Ratty and Mole stretching out after their picnic.

And here are Rackham’s animals laying out their spread.

That luncheon basket!

“What’s inside it?” says Mole…14 picnic

23 Roberts picnic

David Roberts

And that’s a slight problem to me, as I know that moles eat mainly worms, grubs and insects, and water voles like Ratty eat vegetation mostly. And I do believe in being true to zoology. But as an illustrator I don’t think you can avoid drawing the beautiful meat-heavy pies described in that Edwardian picnic. It just wouldn’t be doing the picnic justice if you did.

But the copy of Wind in the Willows I treasure is this version by David Roberts.23a Roberts cover

20 Roberts

David Roberts

I love the carefully designed outfits: Mole’s velvety moleskin suit, badger’s tweeds and cardigan, Ratty’s Edwardian sporting whites.

 

 

 

 

 

21 Roberts

David Roberts

The beautiful elegant Edwardian furniture, the audacious interiors…

22 Roberts

David Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the pure poetry, the light and space:24 Roberts moon

a moonlit field of cow parsley (with a hidden Pan),

25 Roberts mole underwater

mole submerged in bubbles and green water,

26 Roberts willows

David Roberts

and this vista of willow weeping over.

But now let’s return to the very naughty Mr Toad.29 Toad singing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favourite depiction of Toad has to be EH Shepard’s: irrepressible, unrepentant– a high-speed amphibian obsessed with the automobile.27 Toad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is unsquashable, impetuous, possessed by an almost consumerist passion for the Motor Car.28 Toad speeding

The Car!32a silver ghost

1907 saw the advent of the luxurious Rolls Royce Silver Ghost – “Silent as a Ghost, Powerful as a Lion, and Trustworthy as Time” – aristocratic motoring indeed.33 1908-Ford-Model-T

But in 1908 Henry Ford brought out the Model T Ford, bringing motoring to everybody – the coming of the car – and for the last 111 years our cars have been the blind influence in charge of shaping our landscapes.

Toad is enraptured and enthralled by the Car –   “The only way to travel – here today, in next week tomorrow!”28a car

So the Willows shows this brand new force for a changing pace of life. And it’s torn between the urge to roam in dangerous places versus being safely cuddled up at home with toasted teacakes.

The Unbuilt Roads of Oxford Past34 congestion

In the 1900s was the dawning of the Age of the Car, and by the 1960s the needs of car-travel was taking a major role in shaping city planning.

And in 1969 Oxford nearly had a superhighway built right through it. The city was very congested, traffic went right through the centre of it, so plans started to be hatched to make an inner relief road to speed up car travel times. Various schemes were planned, culminating in a planned motorway along the railway line and 4 lane west-east highway right through East Oxford.36 motorway visualisation

A visualisation of the road-to-be in 1969.36b today

The same spot (I think!) as it is now.

I had a look at where this planned highway would have been.37 motorway plan

It would have been just at the bottom of our garden.

A four lane swathe of tarmac cutting through, an impassable barrier for humans and wildlife. I feel a shiver of horror for what could have been.

Planning proposals for an inner relief road hung over Oxford for almost 30 years. You can read more about the whole story here.

Luckily, in 1969, 50 years ago this year, Oxford Civic Society was formed to fight this brutal plan. They won the Battle of the Relief Road, and the planning of Oxford’s roads didn’t go with the needs of the car, but in Park & Rides and pedestrianisation.

Thank you, Oxford Civic Society!

However, Frankenstein’s monster-like, massive road-building plans refuse to stay buried. There’s now the hulking zombie of the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway haunting the future.37a expressway

Back to the Riverbank

I have recently finished being in the zone of Wind in the Willows.31 toadster

I was illustrating a story by the poet Roger McGough (who has adapted Wind in the Willows for the stage.) The story is called Money Go Round, and is all about the journey of a coin through the paws of all the animals who live along the riverbank – and it starts with the naughty amphibian, Mr Toad.38a toad

Our mole is female and runs a hotel,Lavender Mole

and there’s a painter-decorator stoat, a shack of weasels, and a magpie preening parlour. 40 weasels

Working out how much to dress the animals was a dilemma I haven’t really had before. Here are character sketches.41 skech all

42 skech Mrs M43 skech ottersMost of all I wanted the river and the willows to flow through the pictures. So, to finish, here’s my favourite character, Walter Rat, in his boat, the Bootle:

RATTY NEW

And here’s a PS:

The last picture shows how confused you can get when you are not good at left/right/backwards/forwards. I live near the river and I know you row with your back to where yiu are facing, but I still originally drew Ratty like this:

41 Rattywhich looks right to me, because I’m thinking Ratty is coming towards me, out of the picture. BUT HE’S NOT!!! So many thanks to the fantastic Dave Shelton for gently pointing this out. And Dave Shelton should know these things, because he is the maker of the marvellous book A Boy, A Bear and a Boat.Boy & Bear

 

Carbon Pricing – Be Careful What You Ask For – or: Why All Ways of Pricing Carbon Are Not The Same…..

FLYER low“Why do fossil fuels continue to provide most of our energy? The reason is simple. Fossil fuels are the cheapest energy.” – James Hansen, leading climate scientist and former director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

This piece was inspired by an article by Tim Harford for the Financial Times:

A carbon tax is the nudge the world needs.”


Tim gives his thoughts on a Green New Deal, as advocated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, and also Ed Miliband, the UK Labour Party, and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

So what is a Green New Deal? “An emergency of this magnitude requires large-scale government intervention to kickstart industries, to direct investment and to boost research and development in the green technologies of the future.” (Jeremy Corbyn)Machine GNDIt’s an ambitious programme of government investment and regulation. It’s a huge centrally planned response to climate change: the government sets regulations on industry and decides who to subsidise through general taxation. The idea is to tackle everything: social justice, equity, biodiversity loss, CO2 emissions; to reinvigorate left-behind communities, create new jobs and guarantee everyone has them.

But without a clear price on carbon, signals to industry may be mixed. Do you win the lottery of government support? The government may not be the best judge of which industries to support. It may be vulnerable to corruption. Good causes may not be supported due to lack of knowledge.

A Green New Deal may have approval from the ‘left’ as action is seen to be taken, but increasing government control & spending may be unpopular on the ‘right’. Support will be split on partisan lines. And where will the money come from? There doesn’t seem to be a clear mechanism for real change in everyone’s behaviour.

And what would be an effective mechanism?

Tim Harford says: “Our modern economy reflects countless choices, made by billions of people all over the world. A broad-based carbon price influences them all. Nothing else can.”

Now – a carbon price cannot be the only measure for tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, our twin existential threats – but it could be really effective at changing all of our energy use. And it NEVER EVER gets talked about in the media or by politicians. (except for Layla Moran!)

So I thought I would have a look at different methods of carbon pricing – does the way you implement a carbon tax have an effect on its outcomes?

There are a lot of different iterations of carbon pricing, so I’ve whittled down the options to these: (and my apologies if I’ve left out your favourite…)

  1. Cap & Trade (which is the status quo right now)
  2. Carbon Tax & Government spends revenue
  3. Carbon tax & rebate through income tax
  4. Carbon Fee & Dividend

So here we go!

Status Quo: Cap & Trade

Machine C&TWhat happens here is the Government sets a limit on Carbon to be emitted – the ‘CAP’. CO2-intensive industries bid for permits, and so the CO2 price is set by the market. This is our present system in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), with an additional UK Carbon Price Floor added. This has actually had a big effect, driving our energy mix away from coal and oil and towards gas, nuclear and renewables, which is a good thing. But there are failures in this system. One is that 58% of EU emissions come from sectors outside the EU ETS, such as transport, buildings, waste management and agriculture. So lots of industries are not included. Also not included is us, the general public – we are all fuel users, but we are unable to have any effect on this system. The price set on carbon at the moment is too low to have much meaningful effect. High fuel prices passed on to the public would be unacceptable without some sort of compensation plan.

Carbon Tax & Government spends revenue  Machine CT&RISo now, rather than setting a limit on carbon to be emitted & letting the market price the carbon, the Government puts a direct tax on carbon, setting the price. If the price is high enough it drives a change away from carbon-intensive fuels, and makes clean energy comparatively much more affordable.

So now you have a price on carbon at source. What to do with the revenue?

In this model, the government spends the revenue on green energy projects and infrastructure, and any other projects they decide will help the battle against climate change.

But this approach brings higher prices to consumers without any compensation. It also does not involve or empower the public in any clearly visible way. Will the government make the best choices? We don’t know. Looking at the Gilets Jaunes protesters in France, imposing higher prices with no compensation looks extremely unpopular.

Carbon tax & rebate through income taxMachine CT&RHere we have the same instrument to collect revenue – a fee on carbon at source. But now the revenue is returned to the public via the income tax system through tax rebates. (Some ideas are for a mix of this and the government allocating some of the revenue to clean energy projects, but to keep things simple I’m going to say all the revenue is being returned.) So our tax is revenue neutral, and people can see a benefit on their decreased tax bills.

But there’s a fairness problem here: as far as I can tell, this form of compensation is regressive – higher earners get proportionally more tax compensation, so the poorest have higher fuel prices, less compensation, and are worse off. And what happens to those who don’t earn enough to pay tax or have fallen off the edges of the system? Also – how motivating is it to have less income tax? It seems to be less of a bad thing, rather than a positive symbol of climate action.

Carbon Fee & DividendMachine CF&D

(Ok this could be called Carbon Tax & Lump Sum, but to make it sound more upbeat we’re calling it a fee rather than a tax.)

Again, the government sets a price on carbon at source. This price rises over time at a rate set by an independent body. The revenue is returned equally to the public through a weekly/monthly/annual lump sum, ie a ‘DIVIDEND’.

So what’s different here?

The lump sum system is progressive: it really benefits lower earners most. The richest (and largest users of CO2-intensive energy) benefit least. Anders Fremstad of Colorado State University and Mark Paul of Duke University calculate that taxing a tonne of CO2 at $49 would leave 59% of Americans worse off, including 75% of the bottom half, if the revenue were used to lower personal-income taxes. By contrast, recycling the receipts as lump-sum payments (Dividends) would leave 89% of the bottom half with an average net gain of $788.

Here’s a graph adapted from The Future of Carbon Pricing by Policy Exchange.dividend diagram Dividend to each income group is in green. Increased fuel costs are in red. You can see the 6 lowest income groups all break even or are better off, with the poorest getting the biggest benefits. The wealthiest, highest fuel users, are the worst off.

Compared to tax rebates, it’s demonstrably fair as all get an equal dividend.

It’s also possible to get dividends to the poorest most marginalised sections of society, by…. “Investigating inventive ways of paying the dividend to ensure that the most vulnerable receive it. Linking the dividend to national insurance numbers would be one a way to pay the dividend, but this may mean that the most vulnerable miss out. The Government should investigate whether new technology can be used to pay the dividend securely through a mobile app to ensure as many eligible people as possible receive it.” policyexchange.org.uk | 15Carbon Pricing

Through their dividend the public can support renewables in their choice of what energy to buy. The dividend is a visible sign of your purchasing power, and the public is trusted to choose how to spend it; wise choices bring a win-win virtuous spiral of energy choices. The dividend also gives voters an immediate interest in the fight against climate change –a lump sum arriving in your bank account is a very interesting event. All green energy sources benefit by becoming comparatively cheaper.

But another fantastic effect is that the Dividend, once people are used to it, is hard to withdraw by future governments (see what’s happened with UK Winter Fuel Payments) – and so acts as a pledge to industry that the carbon price will endure.

The equal dividend appeals to sense of fairness. Middle and lower earners break even or are better off.

To just measure up again these different ways of pricing Carbon, here’s is my Over-Elaborate & Subjective Table of Questions, to compare all the taxes. I’ve traffic-light colour-coded it: Green is what I see as GOOD outcomes, Yellow is maybe/unsure, Orange is POOR Outcomes (but remember, this is very subjective).TABLE of Speculation

In the words of Tim Harford again: “We’re all involved….Our modern economy reflects countless choices, made by billions of people all over the world. A broad-based carbon price influences them all. Nothing else can.”

I’ve tried to look here at the different ways of implementing a broad-based carbon price. To me it looks like all ways of Carbon Pricing are not the same. Carbon is infused in all our lives and all our choices. We need to tackle climate change with a way that involves and empowers everybody, is fair and acceptable and progressive, and that also is able to set a high enough price for carbon to bring about change, in a way industry can see will not be overturned by a change of government. I think there is one clear policy winner here, one that does all those things.

What do you think?FLYER low

32a KidsLit4Climate01s32 Space for natureROW02

Meet the Relatives

This post first appeared on Picture Book Den’s Blogspot.

01 FLY

Today’s post is about all things insect. So: grit your mandibles, flex your feelers and close your compound eyes, we’re going in…

Meeting the Insect Face

In 1665 Robert Hooke published a perspective-changing book of pictures, Micrographia.02a Micrographia - Fly

02b Micrographia - LouseLooking through a microscope he could see further than anyone ever could before, and he showed us this tiny world of everyday things made enormous and wonderful, with huge fold-out pages. People were amazed by Hooke’s book – Samuel Pepys stayed up all night marvelling at it.02 Micrographia - Flea

The everyday pest is revealed as beautiful; the flea is ‘adorn’d with a curiously polish’d suit of sable Armour’ and ‘multitudes of sharp pinns, shap’d almost like Porcupine’s Quills.’ Hooke also draws the mind-boggling face of a fly. And we find the insect face is hard to love.03 Micrographia - Fly Face

It doesn’t map that well onto the tetrapod look. It’s those mouthparts. The flea has at least a nice moustache – but then – HELP! – it has a pair of legs growing out of its chin. Segments, exoskeletons and too many legs are also not ideal for building our empathy with arthropods.03a flies It is basic human behaviour to feel disgust at insects – no doubt due to instincts of self-preservation against contagion. Lots of insect life cycles are frankly disturbing – especially the parasitic wasps. Most of human history has been a battle against innumerable critters out to infest you & contaminate YOUR FOOD.

Here are some sketches of young locusts and cockroaches at London Zoo.04 locusts

But how does it feel to be an insect? Does it feel like something to be an insect? Some research seems to indicate that bees may experience different emotional states – emotions are useful for instigating behaviour – and it appears that dopamine plays a role in bee decision-making – as it does for us. It could be that emotions are essential for creating all behaviour so all animals that have behaviour are experiencing emotions – so life feels like something for all of them. No-one is a mindless automaton.05 tree of life

As fellow organisms on the Great Tree of Life, insects and us are related, but our branching apart is very distant. The Last Common Ancestor of us & insects was something Pre-Pre-Cambrian, something that maybe lived between 600 and 700 million years ago, and we share with it the invention of bilateral symmetry. No-one has found that ancestor yet, so here is a Kimberella who might have been a bit similar, looking like a cross between a macaron, a sea-slug and a toasted cheese sandwich.06 Kimberella

Picture Book Insects

So, who has crossed over the human-insect divide (that empathy chasm) and involved insects in their picture books? Here are a few of my favourites. Do tell me yours!

Ant & Bee    Ant and Bee 02

I remember having these little books when I was small. I found the small size and relatively large text quite exciting, especially as some words would be picked out in red.

 

Here is Ant tucked up ill in bed. 07 Ant & Bee

Here are some incredible geometrical cakes from when Ant and Bee go shopping.08 Ant & Bee go shopping

Tadpole’s Promise (Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross)Tadpole's Promise

Where water meets willow two creatures meet. Using the page fold to show the intersection of air and water, amphibian meets insect and both must metamorphose.

I am so glad that, as a mammal, I do not have to undergo this sort of utter transformation.09a tadpole 01

 

Du Iz TakDu Iz TakBy Carson Ellis. 10 DU IZ TAK

Insecty creatures find a shoot and tend it, building an extravagant plant house which gets beset by spider and bird, flowers and wilts. 11 DU IZ TAK Like tadpole’s promise, the cast of insects are caught in the cycles of nature and changing seasons, but these ones end with new beginnings and lots of new shoots sprouting.11a DU IZ TAK-character studies

The insect ones speak their own language but you can pick it up…I think they may be swearing on this page:12 DU IZ TAK

Here are some more beautiful insects:

a buzzing meadow garden from Suzy Barton’s Butterfly Dance13 butterfly Dance,

a humming insect Soup Kitchen from Helen Cooper’s Delicious,14 Delicious Bugs

and the most friendly-and-engaging-ever critters here by Yuval Zommer.15 yuval zommer

coversGarden Quest

On holiday on a Greek Island I found this magnificent beetle & handsome grasshopper. 16 Grasshopper and BeetleWhat would they say to each other? What adventures could they have? I imagined them going on holiday to Mount Zakinthos, perhaps eating a large Greek Salad washed down with an unwise amount of Ouzo and then an ill-fated boat trip…17 Grasshopper and Beetle02

I wondered about a story for them; perhaps Grasshopper could be Don Quixote to Beetle’s Sancho Panza. Maybe a Quest that takes place all in one garden, with the tiny insects travelling from one end to the other, beset with adventures and dangers. Well, as often happens, this didn’t really seem to work.19 in the tree

20 the table But then I was asked to make some pieces for the John Radcliffe Hospital Audiology Department. The idea was to make something engaging and distracting for young patients, with lots of details to spot on repeat appointments. So I tried to turn Grasshopper and Beetle’s Garden Quest into a picture-story for a wall. I thought I could make panoramas of a garden world full of minibeasts to spot. Playing around with tracing paper I wanted to make something multi-layered.21 tracing 01 small22 tracing 02 small

It turned into three panoramas which really go from right to left down a garden (the opposite way to a book).

23 RHS Panorama SMALLGrasshopper and Beetle find a label for El Dorado honey on the compost heap.24 CENTRE Panorama SMALL

They take it back to their home in the grass then go in search of it, 25 LHS Panorama SMALL

discovering a honey picnic under the trees.

26 Pot house

Critters under a broken pot

27 GH & B house

Grasshopper and Beetle’s meadow home

28 GH & B travelling

Questing

29 Wasp honey

El Dorado honey attracting attention

INSECTAGEDDON

Nowadays there is grim news about insects from lots of fronts. There has been widespread loss of pollinating insects across Britain in the last 40 years. Insects are also at risk from shrinking habitat ranges due to climate change. There are shifting baselines and clean windscreens. 31 insetti

Are we pulling out the Jenga bricks from the web of life? The tower gets rickettier, but it still looks like a tower until…crash! – one too many bricks has gone. It seems so much insect life is unmeasured, unrecorded, unknown. And that’s the stuff on land – what about the invisible areas we don’t even think about – under the ground, under the sea – ploughing either of those up is wrecking a world that is already there.31a Insetti

So what is causing the disappearance of insects?  32 Space for nature

The causes, it seems, are: habitat loss, pesticides and climate change. What can we do about this? We can share our world with the wildlife in it! We can protect habitats: someone already lives there! We can set aside agricultural land margins and park margins for wild plants, as in this new law in Bavaria. We can treasure what we already have and make more. Edges and hedges and big trees are particularly good habitats…verges, parks, motorway margins, front gardens – all are opportunities for an edge habitat.

We can make our edgelands into mini wildernesses, mini jungles.

Garden Jungle

 

This book, The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson, is about exactly that: the wildlife that lives right under our noses, in our gardens and parks, between the gaps in the pavement, and in the soil beneath our feet.

It is published later in the year and I can’t wait to read it.

The more minibeasts you know, the more you see, and the more you care about.

With climate change we are in danger of a great global biodiversity simplification – losing specialists and gaining generalists. Climate change squeezes the range of animals as they migrate towards the climate they are used to – generally heading north then hitting the end of the range as they run out of habitat.

We can make it easier for creatures to move by increasing & joining habitats – all those edges we already mentioned. But the utterly brilliant thing is that increasing our nature by reforesting and rewilding is one of the most effective ways of reducing atmospheric CO2 – nature can be our climate-change crash mat – but it’s also so much more – what an amazing win-win policy using more nature as a solution to our climate problems would be. Last week scientists and activists called for action on CO2 through natural climate solutions, through defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems. Here George Monbiot explains how to avert Climate catastrophe by rewilding.

We also can tackle the carbon dioxide in other ways: at the moment it is essentially free to put CO2 into our atmosphere. This is an enormous injustice and a robbery from young people and future inhabitants of earth. Putting a clear price on carbon would change this.32a KidsLit4Climate01s

Meet the Relatives

In September last year, the House of Illustration ran a month’s challenge. It was linked to John Vernon Lord’s exhibition there.  (John Vernon Lord is of course the illustrator of that classic insect book The GIANT JAM SANDWICH!)33 sandwich 01

34 sandwich 02In 2016 John had done a teeny drawing every day for the entire year and they were all on show. The challenge was to do a teeny (1 inch to 3cm) drawing a day for September. (Here are the winners.)  I particularly liked John’s insect drawings, I think partly because they’re life-sized. Here are his lovely beetle and fly.

35 JVL Beetle35a JVL fly

 

 

 

 

 

I wondered about doing a month of 3cm square drawings of insects.

At the Natural History Museum at Tring there’s a wonderful collection of insects in cases. All have been impaled on a pin and labelled, in that classic insect-collecting way. Here are some of my sketches of the Tringsects.37 Tringsects

36 TringsectsI wondered: what if the label, instead of saying ‘Periplaneta Americana’, said ‘Uncle Bert’? Could the insects start to become individuals you could care about?

So here are Captain Peacock, Mrs Henderson, Priscilla, FV Heffenfurter and Matilda.38 peacock 39 painted lady 40 wasp 41 cockchafer 42 mosquitoAnd here are all the relatives.43 All the relatives

 

Lastly, a few links…

 

The Perils of Being a Toy

This post first appeared on Picture Book Den’s Blogspot.

00a RabbitsonIt’s not easy being a toy. You get mired in adventures out of your depths, dressed in outfits you never chose, and left in unlikely places by your forgetful owners. Toys are our avatars. They are mostly (happily) silent unless their owners voice for them. Children can’t help being animators – it happens to the first things that are picked up – they get brought to life.

Anything can be a Toy

Mini's Baby Book form C1967

Mini’s Baby Book from C1967

In my baby book, my mum records that when I was three I talked a lot about two persons called ‘Gully’ and ‘Linda’. My mum never knew who they were, though they were often up to stuff. But I know. They were my hands.

Those Yellow Pages fingers

Those Yellow Pages fingers

You know that thing where you can get your index and middle fingers to stride around like a pair of legs? Well that was Gully & Linda – I can’t remember who was right and who was left. They were possibly married. They used to do a lot of striding around on long car journeys.

Anything can be a toy.

In the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood a few years ago I found this:02 Shoe DollIt was someone’s doll once. What it also was, was the sole of a shoe.

Sometimes the most eloquent toys are the most basic – where imagination has had to do most of the animating. And the most disappointing of toys can be the ones who try to say and do too much. Here is Scrubbing Brush, who is basic:

Scrubbing Brush carrying lunch

Scrubbing Brush carrying lunch

…and Turbodog, who says way too much.

Turbodog - the most useless robotic dog there is...

Turbodog – the most useless robotic dog there is…

...both from Traction Man Meets Turbodog

…both from Traction Man Meets Turbodog

 

 

 

 

Children’s books are the theatre for toys to come to life, where toys really can have adventures. And I love books about toys having adventures.

So here are my Top Five Perils of Being a Picture Book Toy.

PERIL ONE: FALLING APART

It’s the big worry about being a toy. Not being able to regenerate unless someone repairs you can leave you in quite a mess. But the conundrum is: that falling apart makes you REAL.

Let’s go first to That Rabbit Belongs To Emily Brown.Emily BrownHere is Emily Brown’s rabbit Stanley in a terrible state after his kidnapping by the naughty queen:05 Emily BrownAfter she has rescued Stanley, the wise Emily Brown gives that Queen a recipe for making a Real Toy:

You take that horrid brand new teddy bear and you play with him all day. Sleep with him at night. Hold him very tight and be sure to have lots of adventures. And then maybe one day you will wake up with a real toy of your own.”06 Emily BrownSo falling apart can be part of the process of Becoming Real.

For more on becoming real, we’ll have to go to The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams with magical pictures by William Nicholson.07 Velveteen rabbitPondering over a toy’s life in the Nursery, the Skin Horse offers the Velveteen Rabbit this definition of real:

“Real isn’t how you’re made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you…Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

There are many ways toys can fall apart: one is unravelling.made for youIn I Was Made For You by David Lucas a home-made knitted cat is destined to be a Christmas present but wakes up with the need to discover the answer to the biggest questions – not just what he is but why he is. The little toy goes in search of an answer to the big Why, but snags his wool on a rusty nail and unravels before our eyes until he is ‘just a long loose thread shivering in the wind’. 08 made for youHe is precariously close to not being at all, but is found and wound by Daisy & her Mum, who reknits him into his shape again.Loved to BitsToys can be tested to destruction. In Loved to Bits by Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson, the toy here is Stripy Ted who bravely loses body parts while engaged in adventures with his owner.
Stripy Ted gallantly loses an ear (“Still got the best one – never fear!” he says cheerfully), an eye, and eventually both legs and both arms becoming only a ball and head.

But his owner prefers him in his brave unmended state. 09 Loved to bitsSo how much of yourself can you lose and still be you?

You can come unstuffed, but you can also be remade.Tatty RattyI think Tatty Ratty, by Helen Cooper, is perhaps a story about being remade, so that old loved tired lost Tatty Ratty can become new again, dusted with sugar & floating down from the moon.

Lost probably on the bus just before the story begins, Tatty Ratty is only seen in the journey of adventures back home that Molly and her Mum and Dad dream up for him. Tatty Ratty is always getting closer, and always getting a bit remade – feeding himself up on porridge to get restuffed, falling in the sea to become washed, being dusted with sugar on the moon for a touch of sparkle.
Finally the family are ready to track Tatty Ratty down at the Kingdom of Bunny. There could be a difficult moment here, when Molly spots the shelf of similar white bunnies with buttons who are all pretty much Tatty Ratty clones. 12 Tatty RattyBut Tatty Ratty’s imagined journey home has somehow prepared Molly to find the right one.12a Tatty RattyPERIL TWO: BEING LOST

A perennial peril of being a toy due to their hapless, absent-minded and easily distracted owners, being Lost can happen anywhere. Red TedIn Red Ted and the Lost Things, Red Ted finds himself in a Lost Property Office having been left on a train, and along with a toy crocodile decides to pluckily find his own way home. I love seeing the little toys bravely navigate the confusing streets of the full-size world.13 red tedA nonchalant cheese-loving cat comes along for the ride. Red Ted is small but resourceful and the crocodile shows his teeth, seeing off a colossal dachshund. For the small toys the journey home is an epic struggle. Finally Red Ted is reunited with Stevie who makes everything right and has superpowers of understanding when it comes to toys and cats.13a red tedPERIL THREE: BEING SUPPLANTED, IGNORED, NOT PLAYED WITH, OR GIVEN AWAY

These fates are too awful to think about  – and they all do happen in the films Toy Story 1, 2 or 3 (EVERYTHING that can happen to toys happens in Toy Story somewhere.) Actually they are so awful I couldn’t find picture book toys that get treated this way (any suggestions?), so here I’m resorting to a story of pure imagination…

The Story of the Bad Mump Mump

The Real Mump Mump

The Real Mump Mump

When my son Herbie was 6 months old he was given this monkey. It was a good one – long legs, squashy round body, perfect bedtime companion. It wasn’t till a year later that we found out from Herbie that the monkey’s name was Mump Mump.

Underwater fantasy Mump Mump

Underwater fantasy Mump Mump

So all was well.

One day I was idly wandering round the toy department of Fenwick’s on Bond Street and I discovered an entire bin of Mump Mumps, probably on special offer. Ooh! – I thought – I could buy a spare Mump Mump! Just in case. We’d never ever have a lost or destroyed Mump Mump crisis!

Reader, I nearly did it. But I didn’t.

On the bus home I realised the full horror of what I could have done. Imagine the life of the Other Mump Mump.

Consigned to a cupboard – (as your existence must always be a secret to the child you are meant to be for) – you watch – (probably through a chink in the cupboard door) –  as your child talks and plays and sleeps with the other hated Mump Mump.
In your cupboard over the long years you plot out ways to despatch your rival Mump Mump. Maybe the day comes when the blow finally falls and the other Mump Mump is left on a beach or dropped off a ferry or mysteriously set on fire and at last you can take your rightful place at the heart of your child’s world.
But no – the long years in the cupboard will have taken their toll and you will be somehow poisoned and bitter inside.

Maybe not the best picture book material.

But with ‘given away’ I’m going to mention Dogger here.

dogger16 dogger

Dogger is lost and found and nearly lost again. Dogger’s owner is Dave. Dogger isn’t actually given away, he is lost then ends up on a toy stall at the school fete – but we see the loved toy ending up on a table with a ‘5p’ label hanging on them. Dogger is perilously close to going home with another child. Some ingenious bargaining by Dave’s sister Bella saves the day.

PERIL FOUR: The hard-working life of a toy which may include having to take the blame…Blue Kangaroo

Picture book toys often have to work hard for their owners. Blue Kangaroo, being a quiet sort, doesn’t point out the unfairness of being repeatedly incriminated for his owner Lily’s mishaps.
Eventually Lily’s mum puts Blue Kangaroo on a high shelf and Lily has to go to bed without him.
The page I love (I think it’s the shadow that makes it so exciting) is this page of blues as Blue Kangaroo jumps down from the bookcase where he’s been banished with an idea about how to put things right.17 Blue KangarooHere is a collection of toys (and an actual cat) grouped round our son Herbie when he was fairly new. When he was very little it always seemed important that he be surrounded by a sort of glow from his stuffed guardians. 17a GuardiansIn While You are Sleeping by Alexis Deacon, the bedside toys are hard at work every While You Are Sleepingnight, protecting, checking, scaring bad dreams away, tending their child. There’s a gathering of guardians around the bedside. Alexis Deacon’s warm pastel pictures conjure up a mysterious dark tender night-time world.

18 Sleeping19 SleepingBeing a toy is a serious business, a life or death struggle, a battle.

There are rules to being a picture book toy. Your owner will know you are alive but this is something they believe without seeing. You generally don’t come to life in front of them. It might freak them out. You don’t come to life around any humans (except maybe strange slightly magical ones.) You can only wander about when no people are watching you. Animals can probably see you and sometimes even understand/talk to you.21 red tedWhen I was making Toys in Space I had a picture in my mind of a group of toys being left on the grass in the garden overnight for the first time. They’d see the stars and wonder what they were. 22 TISWhat else would happen? I badly wanted them to be abducted by an alien. However I wanted also to be brutally realistic, so the story of Toys in Space was my way for having Toys simultaneously abducted by aliens and not abducted by aliens. 23 TISTo get through a night out in the garden, they tell a story (which is where the beaming up comes in) until at last dawn happens and the sun comes out and they know they will be found.24 TISPERIL FIVE: Your Owner GROWS UP

The Unspoken Tragedy in every toy’s life – is that its owner will grow up, the end of childhood.

On the final page of The House at Pooh Corner, Christopher Robin says:

“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Pooh thought for a while.

“How old shall I be then?”

“Ninety-nine.”

Pooh nodded.

“I promise,” he said.

Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I – if I’m not quite -” he stopped and tried again – “Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”

The fate of a toy is to not grow, not change except to get worn and torn and be the victim of entropy, while your owner grows and changes and inevitably always grows up. But a toy is also potentially immortal if it doesn’t get too distressed, which its owner never is. So our toys have the potential to outlive us.

In Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood live a huge collection of toystoy museum

who have outlasted their owners. In David Lucas’s Lost in the Toy Museum Bunting the Cat and the collection of historic toys romp their way through a game of hide and seek in the Museum.

25 LOST

 

AND LASTLY…

Toy Names very often seem to have to state the bleeding obvious…so we have Red Ted, Stripy Ted, Blue Bear….25 Blue BearHere is my Blue Bear who sits on my shelf in an encouraging way… But I always feel that Blue Bear is only a breath away from getting up and stumping off and having adventures of his own.26 Blue Bear picAnd perhaps one day he will.27 Blue Bear multiple
For more about lost toys, here’s the tale of a lost whale.
TOYS

Meet the Relatives

This September, the House of Illustration ran a competition inspired by John Vernon Lord’s ‘A Drawing a Day’ – the challenge was to make a 1 inch square picture every day. I reckoned drawing things that actually would fit in a small square would be good, so I drew buglife….

16 Matilda 11 Gerald

 

 

 

 

Here’s the whole lot of them:The RelativesThe winner was this assembly of found plastic beach rubbish by Sojung Kim-McCarthy : bits of plastic that shouldn’t be there, but one person’s rubbish transformed into somebody else’s treasure:

beach squares

 

The Last Wolf & Other Missing Animals

This post first appeared on Picture Book Den’s Blogspot.

HALF OUR ANIMALS ARE MISSING!

01 Lost AnimalsA few years ago an announcement came out in the news. According to the WWF Living Planet Report, since the 1970s more than half of the wild vertebrate animals on Earth had quietly disappeared. Half of our animals are missing! – how could we have been so careless? And those were the big, visible animals. In a more recent study from Germany, 75% of flying insects – the insects on which everything else depends – were found to have vanished in 25 years. Things are quietly disappearing. Why are they disappearing?

THE LAST WOLF IN ENGLAND

The story of The Last Wolf started with Red Riding Hood. I wondered: what if, instead of taking that basket of goodies to Granny, Red is in the woods because she wants to catch a wolf. But could she actually find a wolf? In England, wolves were probably extinct by 1500, and the last wolf in Scotland may have been killed in 1680. There were once wolves, lynxes and bears, but we’ve lost all our big predators now and become a land of more Wind in the Willows-sized animals.

But walking in the woods can make you remember that the woods could once be dangerous places, where the unwary and unwise could get into trouble. It’s easy to be hidden in woods.02A Wytham treeSNear where I live in Oxford are the wonderful Wytham Woods, which have been studied for over 60 years and where you can walk around and see big old trees full of lumps and crevices, which are also fun to draw. When I was thinking about the story of the Last Wolf I liked walking in Wytham Woods and imagining a wolf was there, and drawing the big old trees.

Big old tree at Wytham Woods

Big old tree at Wytham Woods

I collected my favourite picture book trees – which started with these by Jenny Williams:05 Jenny WilliamsHere are more beautiful picture book trees. This is from John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk illustrated by Sara Ogilvy:06 midnightfolkand these wonderful wolfish woods are from Emma Chichester Clarke and Michael Morpurgo’s Pinocchio:07 pinocchioI kept these at hand for inspiration. Most of my previous picture books have been set indoors in the world of man-made things, so it was exciting to go venturing into the trees.

Here are some sketchbook pages from when I was working out the Last Wolf. I wasn’t sure how to end the story. I did want to begin and end the story with the Good Old Days forest at the beginning and the shrunken woods eaten into by houses at the end, but my wise editor Joe Marriott at Penguin Random House helped me to find a more hopeful ending.

08 Sketch09 sketch10 Sketch11 Sketch12 LW picHere’s the bit in the book where Red meets the Last Wolf.13 Wolf14 WolfAnd now to….

VAUCANSON’S DUCK

This is all that was last seen of Vaucanson’s Duck.15 duckIt is thought to have been destroyed in a fire in 1879. The Duck was an extraordinarily lifelike automaton. It could quack and drink and eat duck-food, which it would then transform into duck-poo to the astonishment of everybody around. It looked like a living breathing bird. But the burnt remains of the Duck reveal the cogs and springs and cams which made this illusion of life happen.

ANIMALS AND US

In the usual human view of the world, it is divided into those that talk and those that don’t. This is very useful, because it means that those that talk can farm and eat those that don’t.

Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes

It is Rene Descartes I blame for this.  Descartes (1596 – 1650) maintained that animals cannot reason and do not feel pain; animals are living organic creatures, but they are automata, like mechanical robots. Descartes held that only humans are conscious, have minds and souls, can learn and have language and therefore only humans are deserving of compassion.

He assumed animals were automata. But this is a big mix-up: automata – machines which create an illusion of inner life, but work by clockwork and cams – can only be made by humans. Only people make machines like this. Nature doesn’t work this way. In the animal world it seems feelings drive behaviour. Feelings give the impulse to act, and determine what that action might be. Feeling scared at a threat brings an impulse to run away. Feeling strong, brave or angry will make you act differently. If something behaves like it has an inner life – then, I argue – it probably does. If my dog behaves like it is scared, it is because it feels scared. If my dog is behaving like it is pleased to see me, then it must be because it feels pleased to see me (I hope!)  Rene Descartes drew up the drawbridge, made the world into Us and Them, human and non-human. The non-human can’t talk, so doesn’t have an inner life. And that means they can be owned, eaten and treated as slaves – all very economically useful. Only with the ideas of Charles Darwin did we start to see ourselves in the continuum of the tree of life, and take our place in the unfolding story of evolution.17 insectsPicture books are a fantastic direct line to empathy and imagination –– where else can you explore what it would feel like to be an egg or a biscuit or a spoon? 18 EmpathyBut also the great thing about picture books is they are an arena where you can make anything you want happen. And one thing I’ve always wanted is to meet is an animal that could talk. But talking animals only really happen in books. The world of children’s books is crammed with talking animals – from Alice in Wonderland to Narnia to Philip Pullman’s daemons to Piers Torday’s Last Wild  – talking animals are rife. Books are windows and doors into experiencing being someone else and that someone may be an animal.19 Lynx and deerThe legacy of Rene Descartes was to see animals as automata, giving an illusion of inner life, but not really having it. But automata are only possible because they are manmade – nothing in nature works this way. The inner lives of animals are worth imagining, what it must feel like to be them. Some animals end up being food. Would we be able to treat talking animals this way? It would seem a bit rude to eat someone who you could have a conversation with (see the Dish of the Day episode in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) But maybe it is even ruder to eat someone you don’t know at all. An anonymous meat could well have had a terrible life. Maybe it is worth asking the question: Meat – Who did it use to be? Packaging is powerful stuff. It would be useful if meat packets could tell us more about the life of whoever is in the packet, so we could choose the one who had a good life before they were meat.

MEAT: who did it use to be?

MEAT: who did it use to be?

MORE TREES PLEASE 21 more trees pleeseRed Riding Hood is a tale that came out of the terror of the forests – the ancient human struggle for survival against nature and predators. But things aren’t like this anymore – we’ve remade the landscape of our planet and its animals to support nearly 7 billion humans on Earth.  It could be time now to change our Us and Them thinking. It always used to have to be ‘Humans first’, because we were small and the Wild was vast. But now the vast majority – some say 98% –  of the mass of vertebrate land animals is us and our livestock. Could we give back a bit more space for the Rest of the World? We could include thinking about nature in everything we plan, and try putting a real value on our existing nature especially ancient woodlands. The amazing 4.6 billion year story of life on Earth – the complex long weaving of our life on Earth – is it OK to unravel and simplify this?

A Sunday Times headline: as it was (left) and as it could be (right)

A Sunday Times headline: as it was (left) and as it could be (right)

We can tackle this by framing everything we do in the context of nature, but also we have to step back a bit – leave more land unclaimed, leave the Antarctic Krill for the Antarctic animals. This needs regulation and legislation, otherwise a tragedy of the commons always happens. The National Planning Policy Statement of 2012 put ‘sustainable development’ (is that not an impossible thing?) at the heart of the planning system. Here’s my dictionary’s definition of ‘sustainable’:

Sustainable adj 1 able to be sustained. 2 able to be maintained at a fixed level without exhausting natural resources or damaging the environment: sustainable development.

So – sustainable development means development at a level which can be continued indefinitely without environmental degradation. If you systematically convert unbuilt-on land into built-on land so the overall balance of land-use changes – this is not sustainable if carried on indefinitely even at a low level.

There’s a new draft National Planning Policy Statement out for consultation right now. We should make sure that putting space for Nature is at the heart of everything we plan. Here’s how you can give feedback. (And also here.)24 Election Manifesto

Winter trees in Grosvenor Square, London

Winter trees in Grosvenor Square, London

Trees are multi-level, they make habitats more three dimensional.  Trees seem especially important in cities. The challenge is: can we create our buildings in sympathy with trees, plan around big trees, be generous and build with enough space for big trees? Can we value big old trees as special individual entities – to be valued like national treasures, like St Paul’s Cathedral? A big old tree gives vastly more to us than a young sapling. They are not interchangeable. We have to factor in time, put a value on time so it is not affordable to cut down a big tree. It seems that Sheffield City Council’s destruction of their street trees at the moment is demonstrating exactly how not to do things.

Plane tree in Grosvenor Square, London

Plane tree in Grosvenor Square, London

Chestnut tree near Iffley Lock, Oxford

Chestnut tree near Iffley Lock, Oxford

MAKING SPACE FOR NATURE

If you give animals space and habitat to live in they bounce back. Rewilding Yellowstone Park with wolves boosted the whole dimensions of biodiversity there, by returning a missing keystone species – changing the behaviour of their prey and enabling woodland to grow back. Pine martins, red kites, beavers are all coming back from the brink in the UK. Rewilding can make more for all of us by restoring a balance of predators and prey and a more complex natural world.

Every little bit of wilderness helps.28 Cut out & keep

Here’s a useful cut-out-and-keep Wild Verges Award – if you see a particularly lovely roadside verge of cow parsley and wild flowers later in the year you could award it to the council concerned. Or give it to your own garden.

Nice bit of Cow Parsley in Regent’s Park

Nice bit of Cow Parsley in Regent’s Park

PS: The Last Wolf is out now, published by Penguin Random House. Catch it if you can!30 LastWolf Cover

Magic and Storytelling

This post first appeared on Picture Book Den’s Blogspot.

My book The Bad Bunnies is all about a magic show, and while I was making it I got really interested in the history of magic and how illusions are made. So that’s what this post is about.

Bunnies SpotlightYearning for Magic

Here is my cat C1973. In a basket. I’m the one holding the bicycle

Here is my cat C1973. In a basket. I’m the one holding the bicycle

When I was small I used to long for something magical to happen: for the biscuit bear I’d just baked to come to life, to find a mysterious lamp-post or cupboard full of fur coats that would transport me to another world (I was obsessed with Narnia), to make a potion & find it actually worked, for my cat to talk. But I never seemed to find the magic that I was looking for. My cat never spoke a word to me, my potions made nothing happen and all I ever found round the other side of the lamp-post …was the other side of the lamp-post.

A likely-looking lamppost

A likely-looking lamppost

But why this yearning to witness magic?

Harry summons his patronus

Harry summons his patronus

When magic happens in books and films it seems so easy. We’re used to seeing magic whooshing out of Harry Potter’s wand and extraordinary transformations happening onscreen and on the page. And with the dark arts of cameras and drawing and special effects anything is possible. But what about Real Life Magic?

Real-life magic is harder. Real-life magic is really hard work. Real-life magic is putting in more practice than anyone would ever believe to make something seem effortless.Magic - balancing actHere are some acrobats doing something that looks just about impossible. But I suspect that this feat has been achieved not with magic but with an astonishing amount of practice, skill and hard work. (Plus nerves of steel.)

So one ingredient of magic is a lot of hard work, invisibly hidden away. But magic tricks done by magicians use the way our brains and vision work so that our brains are helping the illusion to happen – our brain is being the magician’s assistant.

And since our brain is being the magician’s assistant, the magician won’t have to distract or misdirect us necessarily, but will want to be directing our attention towards the magical effect…which means we do the magic – in our heads, with our story-telling brains.

Our vision is constantly trying to make a story it can understand about the world – to work out what is going on so we can predict what might happen next, and we know what to do. Optical illusions are a great way to see this in action.Optical Grey Bar 01Here’s a grey bar on top of a grey gradient. Look at the grey colour on the bar, and what happens if I cover the gradient background, first the top:Optical Grey Bar 02

And now the bottom:Optical Grey Bar 03The grey bar that seemed to have such a definite shading from light to dark at first – has gone flat. Which it was all along. Our eyes couldn’t help attempting to construct an image using our ideas of relative light and shade.  Optical TriangleHere’s an invisible triangle – what can you see? Can you see its edges? Is it really there? To our eyes, a triangle is a better idea of what might happen than a non-triangle.

With optical illusions you can see your eyes and brain at work constructing the world.

The Vanishing Card

Magic - card trick 01Let’s say a magician makes a card disappear and shows you that it had, then produces it out of someone’s ear. He’s shown show both sides of his hand after the disappearance – but you can’t see both sides at the same time, so have you seen there’s no card? Your brain invents a story, and the story you see is the card has vanished. The story is not that the magician has practiced flipping a card round his hand more times than you can imagine so he or she can do it with supernatural unbelievable skill. Remember those acrobats: what they do is incredible, magical – but we know how they did it – an incredible amount of working at it.

When your brain’s story & the evidence don’t match, you either change your view of what’s going on, or call it magic… The fascinating thing about magic is it reveals how our brains work: how we are storytelling all the time, constructing stories, taking shortcuts and filling in the gaps.

Arthur C Clarke famously said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The history of magic really runs parallel with technological innovations. For example, making a ghost appear on stage wasn’t possible until the invention of plate glass – in big sheets. The Pepper’s Ghost Illusion meant hiding a huge sheet of glass in front of the stage, angled to reflect a figure hidden below the stage – when they were illuminated with a strong light they’d magically appear. Nobody watching was expecting to see huge sheets of hidden plate glass – so they didn’t see it – and Pepper’s Ghost was a sensation.Magic - Pepper's GhostBut back to books.

Books are masters of disguise – they can be like so many things. A book can be like a door, a museum, a time-machine, a theatre show.

Chris Riddell showing how books are like doors

Chris Riddell showing how books are like doors

Every reading of a picture book is like putting on a new performance. When I made The Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show I wanted to make a book that was like a theatre performance, and I wanted the reader to be the audience.

At first I wanted the bunnies’ magic tricks to be proper pop-up paper-engineering, because playing around with pop-ups is such a lot of fun. I managed to make a cabinet that could make Lovely Brenda appear and disappear.

Here’s the Brenda Cabinet in action. It’s a fold-up thing called a tetraflexibook.

Here’s the Brenda Cabinet in action. It’s a fold-up thing called a tetraflexibook.

But I realised the transformations I wanted to happen would be really complicated to engineer – and the complicatedness of the mechanisms might limit their visual impact. So as often happens – I found that less is more, and just cutting into the page edge with a magical sort of shape could be all the magic I needed.

Here is Cadabra doing some knife throwing.

Here is Cadabra doing some knife throwing.

and a bird-to-beast transformation

and a bird-to-beast transformation

The bunnies’ plan is foiled

The bunnies’ plan is foiled

and here they are being blasted.

and here they are being blasted.

I also had to make a stage to work out what was behind the curtain!

My model bunny theatre

My model bunny theatre

So, to return to my childhood hunt for real magic – what it would mean to see something truly inexplicable and magic happen? What if my cat did start talking to me?Cat basket cat captionIt would mean I’d have to rethink my entire world model…which would be weird and exciting, but alas still hasn’t had to happen.

 The Great Randi, Uri Geller and the Spoons

Uri Geller is an illusionist who did a lot of spoon bending, and explained that it was happening through the force of his mind.

James Randi (the Great Randi) was an incredible magician who also put a lot of time into exposing the deceptions of fraudsters and confidence tricksters. Randi studied Geller’s performances, and worked out exactly how he was producing the illusion of a spoon bending to his will. Randi could demonstrate spoon bending exactly like Uri Geller, but when he did it, people said – “Oh that’s just a trick.” “But what about Uri Geller?” they might be asked.  The reply would be “Oh no – when he’s doing it, it’s magic.”

To me, magic show the power of our story-telling minds. Storytelling is how our brains are constructing our worlds. Storytelling is how our brains construct our pasts and predict our futures – and decide what to believe.BB32Bunny CoverThe Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show is published by Simon and Schuster Children’s Books.