Friday, January 31, 2020

Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Lauren Child


Short Biography

Lauren Child’s first name was Helen when she was born on November 29th, 1965. She changed her name to Lauren when she became an adult. She currently lives with her partner Adrian and their adopted daughter, Tuesday, in London, England. She is both a writer and illustrator and has published several works and won quite a few rewards, including: Smarties Book Prize, Named Order of the British Empire, Waterstones Children’s Laureate and several more. Her book series Charlie and Lola has even been made into a BBC television show for children (Lauren Child, 2019).

She champions reading for children, stating, “we know that literature is life‑changing for children. I’d love to promote reading for pleasure, which I know other laureates have talked about before. But there’s such a lot of talk today about how children should be reading when, in fact, if you can get a child excited about it, that’s half the work done, because they’ll then have the courage or enthusiasm to carry on for themselves,” (Armitstead, 2017).

Major Issues Raised by Work

The British Council of Literature page states that Child’s work “captures the humorous idiosyncrasies of human nature, in characters who appeal to both children and adults) (British Council, 2019). She also focuses on depicting childhood more akin to that of the 1970s instead of that which a modern child might be more accustomed to because she believes that screen time and decreased imaginary play outdoors hinders a child’s ability to be a kid and dabble in the world of make believe (British Council, 2019).  She states, “I’m really keen to discuss creativity, because I feel it’s vital for all of us to be able to create and explore our world in a different way but there’s so much micromanagement of children today,” (Armitstead, 2017).

In her series Charlie and Lola, Child also focuses on the importance of sibling relationships. When this particular book series was turned into a television show broadcasted by the BBC, the issue of healthy eating was brought up and Child’s work was actually censored. She was asked to change the types of snacks Charlie and Lola would eat after school because Child depicted a normal (not quite so healthy) after school snack in her books, but the BBC wanted healthier options presented (British Council, 2019).

Media and Techniques Used in Illustrations

According to Laruen Child’s Scholastic Kid’s Book Club page, her “illustrations contain many different mediums including magazine cuttings, collage, material and photography as well as traditional watercolours” (Scholastic, 2019).

An example of Child’s mixed medium is shown to the left. In this illustration from We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers, we can see newspaper clippings in the tree trunk and the leaves. Lola’s dress is patterned and of a different material than the rest of her body. The other child in the illustration appears to have a shirt made from colored pencils or watercolor.






In this illustration from Absolutely One we can see that the grass appears to be of one material, cut out and placed over the different birds in the picture. Lola appears to be made from a different medium than the grass and the birds. She also seems to be cut out and placed on top of the scene.





Distinctive Style or Changes from Book to Book

Child has a very distinctive character type when illustrating humans. They all have the same head shape, round at the top and an angled chin. They all also have large eyes and relatively small noses and mouths in comparison. An example is shown below.  



The only books that do not have this representation of humans is The Princess and the Pea, Addy the Baddy, and Songs and Verses.



·         The Princess and the Pea: While most of the characters still have that sharply angled chin, they have more pronounced noses and lips. Their heads aren’t as large as her other characters either. This book is also unique in that the artwork is mixed media. Lauren Child has drawn all the people and they have been cut out and put into photographs taken by Polly Borland.

·         Addy the Baddy: This book was difficult to find any information on. The cover images I found online were small and only appear to show Addy on the cover. From the cover, however, it appears that Addy has a much rounder face and much smaller eyes than Child’s normal characters.

·         Songs and Verses: This book was illustrated by several illustrators. The main illustrator is listed as Quentin Blake, and it’s quite possible that his illustrative style is more heavily represented than Child’s.

Role of Illustrations in Each Work

The role of the Child’s illustrations goes beyond pictures that fit the text. Her illustrations further develop the plot, aid character development, and add details that aren’t expressed in the text. For example, in Absolutely One Charlie shows Lola how many singing birds are on the powerline by counting them out. We see that he’s showing her through the illustrations as each individual bird they’re looking at is numbered in the illustration. Through this illustration we can see Charlie teaching Lola how to count properly through modeling. This supports the idea the British Council of Literature’s claim that Child stresses the importance of sibling relationships, as listed in the Major Issues Raised by the Work section.

Why the Illustrator was Chosen

While most of the books Child has illustrated have been her own works, Child did illustrate Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren in 2007. According to the Amazon listing for the book, Lauren states that she has been inspired by Pippi  since she was eight (Amazon, 2007)  and she was beyond excited to be chosen for the job (Child, 2012, Pippi Longstocking). When asked why she writes and illustrates as she does Lauren writes in her FAQ section of her webpage that “the most important thing is that I feel passionate about what I am writing or illustrating” (Child, 2012, FAQs).

I chose to research Lauren Child because her artistic style has always intrigued me. I started out my library career as a shelver and her picture books always caught my eye. They were so different from the other books I was putting away. Now, as a children’s librarian, I still find her illustration style to be unique and thoroughly enjoyable. I’m looking forward to sharing them with my daughter in the months to come!

Resources

Armitstead, C. (2017, June 9). Children's laureate Lauren Child on her new role, motherhood and creativity. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/09/lauren-child-childrens-laureate-interview-charlie-and-lola-clarice-bean

Child, L. (2012). Milk Monitor: the official website for Lauren Child. Retrieved from http://www.milkmonitor.com/faqs/

Lauren Child (1965-). (2019). In J. Stock (Ed.), Something About the Author (Vol. 334, pp. 41-47). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/KYBMCM178121034/SATA?u=acpl_main&sid=SATA&xid=c5fc8377

Scholastic. (2019). Lauren Child. Retrieved from https://clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk/authors/4260

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