5 minutes with 5 illustrators, to celebrate International Picture Book Month
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5 minutes with 5 illustrators, to celebrate International Picture Book Month

Well-crafted picture books are a genre all on their own and represent the careful weaving together of the visual and the word into a single thread of the story which delights, satisfies and feeds all who read them – young and old.  This November is International Picture Book Month, and to celebrate we interviewed five of South Africa’s top children’s authors and illustrators to find out what motivates and inspires their work and why celebrating International Picture Book Month is so important to them. Arabella Koopman (Content Manager for Nal’ibali) says: “If you want to rekindle the child in you, explore a picture book. If you want to ignite the fire for reading in children, share a picture book with them.”

Niki Daly (author and illustrator)

Niki Daly has been writing and illustrating books for 35 years. For him, the best part of being an illustrator is coming up with characters. “I see it as casting the right characters – you know them when you see them! Indeed, many of my books spring from of a particular character that I have drawn.” Niki believes that pictures books should be celebrated as a powerful spark for life. “Books are for the mind and imagination what food is to our bodies. When they have pictures, as all good books should have , they connect us to worlds that are sometimes beyond our imaginations.”


Jude Daly (illustrator and author)

Jude Daly, whose first picture book was The Dove (written by Dianne Stewart) says the hardest part of being an illustrator is: “A blank sheet of paper!” After 20 years of illustrating and 13 years of re-writing though, she has come to love the thrill of illustrating books. Her message to children who read picture books is: “I hope you never feel too old to enjoy them.”

Joan Rankin

Joan Rankin (illustrator)

Joan Rankin’s first illustrated books were her own stories that she wrote about her pets as a teenager. After studying at, the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, Joan won the Daan Retief Publishers Competition for  Childrens' book illustration, which gave her the opportunity to illustrate many books. Her favourite picture book is in Clown by Quentin Blake. Joan believes we should all be celebrating International Picture Book Month. “For heaven’s sake, why isn't everyone celebrating books when a book can be a friend to hold, smell, feel and experience for life?”

Wendy H

Wendy Hartmann (author)

Wendy Hartmann started writing in 1986. For her, the best part of working on picture books is: “When the story pulls together and you feel the excitement. Then, when the illustrator starts to work and interpret your words, it’s a wonderful development.” Wendy is very excited to be celebrating International Picture Book Month. “International Picture Book month reminds us how important picture books are! Everyone needs to be exposed to the wonders and delights of picture books. No matter who you are or how old you are, you will discover a picture book that you will want to share.”

Marjorie van Heerden

Marjorie van Heerden (author and illustrator)

Marjorie van Heerden, whose books have been published in 33 languages and in many countries around the world, loves every part of being a story writer and illustrator. “For me the fun part of picture book illustration is every part of the process – the fun time, is all the time!” Marjorie believes the benefits of picture are not only for children. “For all young children and also for adults, particularly those not fortunate enough to be able to read the written word, a well-illustrated picture book provides the gateway to an experience: an adventure that can stimulate their minds,  their imaginations and their own creative thinking and growth.”

We asked four top publishing houses (Jacana MediaNB PublishersSongololo and Pan MacMillan South Africa) to recommend their best picture books, which you can check out here. You can also stand a chance to win a book hamper containing a selection of these top reads! Simply email letters@nalibali.org, or write on our Facebook wall (facebook.com/nalibaliSA) and tell us: Why do you love picture books?

Picture books are especially useful for a stimulating story time with babies and toddlers. Get our top tips for reading with babies and toddlers here, and watch PRAESA's Carole Bloch discuss books for children here:

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