UoR finds sketches produced by famous children’s illustrators in its storage

Sketched illustrations from some of the most distinguished contributors to children’s literature have recently been unearthed by the University of Reading…in its cupboards.

Found while moving books to the University’s new Learning Hub, the illustrations were stored in response to a letter sent to nine illustrators twenty years ago asking what books they would recommend for children stranded on a desert island.

The letter was sent by the ‘Reading and Language Information Centre’ in 1993 and asked the questions: ‘What novels would you give to an eight-ten year old marooned on an island?’ and ‘Which work gave you the most pleasure?’

In response to the University’s letter, Quentin Blake’s illustrations give a revealing insight into his interests as an illustrator, despite not naming what desert island books he would choose. He chose his story ‘Cockatoos’ as the most favourite book he has worked on because “picture books aren’t as simple as they look” and “it meant I could draw birds (which I like) and also all the things in that old French house (which I also like).”

Shirley Hughes, author of the Alfie books, picked the much-loved stuffed toy dog Dogger for her own work which echoes her book Chips and Jessie, alongside her desert island books Treasure Island and Fairy Tales of the British Isles.

What’s more, Anthony Browne’s illustration of a gorilla revealed that his most treasured work was Zoo and that he would also choose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick among a variety of others to take with him.

Director of the University’s Learning Hub, Karen Goulding, who also found the collection said:

“It was a wonderful surprise – our own CS Lewis magical wardrobe moment. Although we can’t be certain, it’s likely that these letters and illustrations that hold the hand-written musings from some of the UK’s best authors have only been seen by a handful of people.

Due to the interest surrounding these illustrations and letters, the University plans to put the collection on public display in the near future.

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