Saturday, June 7, 2008

Author Focus: Bob Graham

Bob Graham is one of Australia's most popular illustrator/authors of picture books. He was born in Sydney in 1942 and studied drawing and painting. After his graduation he went to the UK, but returned to Sydney in 1969 and began working as an illustrator and designer. He lived in Melbourne from 1983 to 1995 working as an illustrator for a publisher. He moved back to the UK but returned to Australia. He writes this of himself on the Walker Books website:

"I live in Australia with my wife, Carolyn, a printmaker who makes landscapes out of lino and wood. We have two grown-up children, Naomi, a musician and refugee worker living in London, and Peter, an artist in Melbourne making big, beautiful, ethereal paintings in oil. We have two grandchildren, Oliver and his older sister Rosie - and to them I am "Bob" rather than "Grandad" (somehow that name has the feeling of pipes, carpet slippers and rocking chairs; and I'm not quite ready for that). I read them books (mostly other people's and, very occasionally, my own), and we just blob around and go to the park, and things like that. Dare I say it? Like a grandad and grandchildren are supposed to do

He was working as a designer in the 1980s with the Department of Technical and Further Education when he wrote his first picture book.

"It took me 40 years to write my first book, Peter and Roland. One morning back in 1982 a budgerigar flew into our back garden, stayed a while and eventually flew away again. I wrote the words and drew the pictures because it seemed a good idea at the time and I was home sick from my usual work as a designer..." (Alyson Simpson, Reading Under the Covers: Helping children to choose books, PETA, 2008, p.29)

After a late start, Bob Graham has made up for it. He has been a prolific writer and illustrator.
He was once responsible for a monthly comic strip for a French magazine and has illustrated professionally outside the field of children's literature. But his passion has been writing for children. He has written and illustrated 33 books and illustrated 5 books written by other authors.

His books have won many awards. First There Was Frances was shortlisted for the 1986 Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year Award. He has also had success in the same awards with Crusher Is Coming (Picture Book of the Year in 1988), Grandad's Magic (Honour Book in 1990), Greetings from Sandy Beach (which won in 1991), Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten (Picture Book of the Year Award in 1993) as well as joint winner in the 1993 Children's Peace Literature Award. The same book was also highly commended in the Children's Literature category of the 1992 Human Rights Awards. His book Max won a children's choice award in 2001.

The thing that distinguishes his work is the simplicity of his line and colour drawings, the humorous story lines, his delightful characters and the fact that his characters face the same issues that 'real' children do each day. My introduction to Bob Graham's work was through Crusher is Coming (1987). This beautiful book tells the story of a boy of about 10 years who invites the biggest and toughest kid in his class home. He prepares his room in the morning by giving his soft toys to his little toddler sister (aged about 18 months), warns his mum not to kiss him when he comes home because "Crusher is coming", tells his mum to keep Claire out of his room and so on. You might be able to predict the ending; Claire captivates big tough crusher and he ends up playing with her all afternoon. While some of his attempts to write simply about significant issues don't always work as well as this wonderful book, all manage to capture young readers' interest.

A more recent book that children love is Max (2000). Bob Graham explores the "super-kid" theme with Max the youngest member of a famous superhero family. He has the cape and all the other things super heroes have but his powers fail causing him lots of problems at school.

Books he has written and illustrated

"First There Was Frances", Bradbury Press, 1985
"Pearl's Place", Picture Lions, 1985
"Bath Time For John", Little Brown & Co., 1985

"Roland Harvey's Incredible Book Of Almost Everything", Sterling, 1985
"Where Is Sarah?", Little, 1985

"The Red Woolen Blanket", Little, 1987

"The Adventures Of Charlotte And Henry", Viking, 1987
"Crusher Is Coming", Viking, 1988
"Here Comes John", Little Brown & Co, 1988)

"Pete And Roland", Puffin, 1988
"Here Comes Theo", Little Brown & Co, 1988
"Has Anyone Here Seen William?", Little, Brown & Co., 1989

"The Wild", Harper Collins, 1989

"Grandad's Magic", Walker, 1989

"Greetings From Sandy Beach", Lothian, 1990
"Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarden", Walker Books, 1992

"Spirit Of Hope", Blackbird, 1993

"Zoltan The Magnificent", Happy Cat, 1994
"Queenie, One Of The Family", Candlewick, 1997
"Benny: An Adventure Story", Candlewick, 1999
Published in the UK as "Buffy: An Adventure story"
"It's Much Too Hot: A First Book About Science", Zero To Ten, 1999

"Rupert Takes A Bath: A First Book About Science", Zero To Ten, 1999)

"Look Out For Rosy: A First Book About Science", Zero To Ten, 1999)

"Daisy's Wild Ride: A First Book About Science", Zero To Ten, 1999 (Originally published as "Pig's Wild Cart Ride", in 1991)
"Brand New Baby", Candlewick, 2000

"Max", Candlewick, 2000
"Let's Get A Pup! Said Kate", Candlewick, 2001

"Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child", Candlewick, 2002
"Tales From The Waterhole", Walker Books, 2004
"Oscar's Half Birthday", Candlewick, 2005

"Dimity Dumpty: The Story Of Humpty's Little Sister", Candlewick, 2006

"The Trouble With Dogs... Said Dad", Candlewick, 2007

"Jack's Little Party", Walker Books, 2007

Illustrated by Bob Graham

"Poems For The Very Young", Kingfisher, 1994
Written by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Bob Graham
"The Nine Lives Of Aristotle", Walker Books/Candlewick, 2000/2003
Written by Dick King-Smith,
"Full House", Star Bright, 2000 Written by Nigel Gray, Illustrated by Bob Graham
"This Is Our House", Candlewick, 2005
Written by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Bob Graham "My Dog, My Cat, My Mama And Me", Candlewick, 2007 Written by Nigel Gray, Illustrated by Bob Graham

Useful Links

Department of Education Western Australia Walker Books

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