James Mayhew posted a link on facebook to a page on the website Illustration Cupboard, where some of Jan Peinkowski’s illustrations are for sale. It was like stepping into a time machine and being whisked back to my childhood. My reading life took off the day I picked up my first Joan Aiken book The Wolves of Willoby Chase. From there I went on to read every one of her books I could lay my hands on. This was not much of a problem as my mother is a bibliophile and she was thrilled when her children ended up being enthusiastic readers, so she continued to add to my collection. Even as an adult, if a new book in the wolves series came out, I snapped it up, following the exploits of her redoubtable heroine Dido Twite, who manages to thwart plots to assassinate kings and blow up England. I loved the inky scribbly illustrations by Pat Marriot and still do.
But my little artistic heart just about blew a gasket when I received Kingdom Under the Sea and other Stories. Jan Peinkowski’s intricate cutouts sent me into illustration and design heaven and I have been a lifelong fan ever since. When I look at his illustrations (see above), I realise that in many ways, the poses he uses for his characters really influenced how I pose imaginary characters in illustrations. I remember as a child, drawing silhouettes and trying to emulate his flowing lines and fluidity.
Most of Joan’s books for children are being reprinted, in real book and ebook. If you have children, do them a favour and introduce them to Joan and Jan!
For younger readers: the Arabel & Mortimer series (illustrated by Quentin Blake) and the short stories
For slightly older readers: The Wolves series, the Felix series and the short stories will entertain
For Adults: read them all!
If you have a few thousand pound floating around, buy an original illustration by Peinkowski here