Helen Oxenbury: A life in illustration by Leonard S. Marcus

cover image

Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406357943
(Age: 11-Adult) Highly recommended. What a joy it was to discover this fascinating account of the life of Helen Oxenbury, written in an easy to read manner by Marcus, a distinguished children's literature critic. From the very beginning when the reader glimpses a rich brown red door at the top of the stairs, then is shown all the accoutrements of an artist, brushes, pens and crayons, it is evident that this is a book to be savoured and treasured, one to share with other people who love art and with children who have adored the illustrations in many of Helen Oxenbury's books.
The book is divided into spans of years, giving information about Helen's childhood and early training as an artist in the period from 1938-1957, then the book is divided into decades following the important events of her life. It is illustrated with beautiful photographs that bring Helen to life for the reader as well as containing many gorgeous illustrations from her books. Anyone who has been involved with reading to young children will recognise the wonderful pictures from We are going on a bear hunt, to Ten little fingers ten little toes and will be filled with nostalgia for the lovely times of reading aloud and sharing these books. Helen's understanding and love for children is evident in her delightful drawings of toddlers and babies and her empathy for young mothers is also very obvious.
It is easy to read the book from cover to cover as Helen's life and the growth of the publishing industry is described. And it is also wonderful to let the pages just drop open to see what gorgeous illustration might appear.
This beautifully designed book is a fascinating biography of a very warm and talented illustrator and one that could grace any home where art is valued, while being a valuable addition to any library. A video is available.
Pat Pledger