Thursday, April 24, 2008

Author Focus: Pamela Allen

Pamela Allen is one of Australia's finest author/illustrators for young readers. I say Australian but she is actually a Kiwi who has lived in Australia for over 30 years. She has published over forty picture books since her first, Mr Archimedes' Bath, was published in 1980.

Her recipe is a combination of strong characters caught in humorous life situations, with simple illustrations that young children find captivating.

One of the great advantages of the author/illustrator is that they can apply both the craft of writing and illustrating in harmony. The good picture book has unity of word and illustration. The illustrations should contribute to the emerging story, not simply mirror it. Pamela Allen is a master at this and uses every device at her disposal to execute it with rare distinction.

Meg Sorenson (Australian Book Review) writes: "The characters in these books exude life, caught at the highest point of action, and animated forever on the page. Every curve, stretch and twist communicates exactly the way they feel, the sentiment or momentum each embodies."

Titles by Pamela Allen include: Mr Archimedes’ Bath (1980), Who Sank the Boat (1982) Bertie and the Bear (1983), A Lion in the Night (1985), Simon Said (1985), Watch Me (1985), Herbert and Harry (1986), Fancy That (1987), Simon Did (1988), Watch Me Now (1989), I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit (1989), My Cat Maisie (1990), Black Dog (1991), Mr McGee Goes to Sea (1992), Belinda (1992), Mr McGee and the Blackberry Jam (1993), Alexander's Outing (1993), Clippity Clop (1994), Waddle Giggle Gargle (1996), The Bear's Lunch (1997), Ordinary Albert (1997, text by Nancy Antle), Mr McGee and the Biting Flea (1998), The Pear in the Pear Tree (1999), Mr McGee and the Perfect Nest (1999), Inside Mary Elizabeth's House (2000), Can you keep a secret? (2000), Brown Bread and Honey (2001), Who Sank the Boat (2001), The Potato People (2002), Cuthbert's Babies (2003), Grandpa and Thomas (2003), Mr McGee and the Big Bag of Bread (2006), Fancy That (2005), Waddle, Giggle, Gargle (2005), Where's the Gold (2005), Inside Mary Elizabeth's House (2005), Where's the Gold? (2005), Daisy All-sorts (2005), Doodledum Dancing (2006), Grandpa and Thomas and the Green Umbrella (2006), I Wish I had a Pirate Suit (2007), Is Your Grandma a Goanna? (2007). Share said the Rooster (2007)

The sheer variety of ways she is able to tell an amusing story is remarkable. And each book teaches children about language and their world. In Mr Archimedes' Bath (1980) she introduces children to the scientific principle that a body or object will displace water in the bath. In Grandpa and Thomas (2003) children learn about the movement of tides and the consequence for sand castles. But she also delves into life's substantial human challenges like learning to share (Herbert & Harry, 1986) and the difference between reality and fantasy in Inside Mary Elizabeth's House (2000). All the while she is examining the richness of human emotions and relationships.

Allen has won many awards as both an author and illustrator. She is the only person to win the Australian CBC Picture Book of the Year award in two consecutive years (1983 & 1984), for Who Sank the Boat (1982) and Bertie and the Bear (1983). She has been shortlisted for the prize in five other years. She was also the 2004 winner of New Zealand's most prestigious award for children's literature, the Margaret Mahy Medal. In 2007 her book "Doodledum Dancing" (written by Meredith Costain) was an Honour Book in the Picture Book category. She is short listed yet again in 2008 for one of her latest books "SHHH! Little Mouse".

For more information about Pamela Allen's books you might like to look at the Penguin website which has good sections for teachers and children.

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