One of my favorite illustrators is Edward Ardizzone. He has a wonderful way with line and form, of catching character with a telling detail, and a sparkling sense of humor -- which, by the way, I have to resist spelling with a "u" here, as one of the things I find so enchanting about Ardizzone is his utter Englishness. I am especially fond of Sarah and Simon and No Red Paint, the story of two children whose father is a painter, but is rather poor because although he paints beautiful pictures, very few people would buy them -- and of his "Tim" series of books, about a particularly enterprising boy's adventures at sea. Ardizzone seems to have had a knack for illustrating books whose authors' humor matched his own, such as John Symonds' Elfrida and the Pig, which starts, "In a house near a lake there once lived a clever child. She could
Play the piano,
Do sums as long as your arm,
And write letters to important people,"
which you may think is a promising start, and you would be right.
I was reading The Dragon to the girls last night, a story written by Archibald Marshall, who was obviously another kindred spirit to Ardizzone, who drew the book's illustrations -- "Once a long time ago there was a very horrible dragon that settled itself in a swamp near a city and began to eat up the people who lived near it. So of course they didn't go on living there but came into the city where there was less chance of the dragon getting at them" -- and decided that I couldn't resist sharing one of the illustrations, for fairly obvious reasons, I suspect. On reflection, I realized that this particular drawing is very characteristic of Ardizzone -- one can be swept along with the story of this particular Princess who was too beautiful for words, or linger and appreciate the intricacy of the illustrations, the way that the tips of the painter's shoes turn up, the balance of the Princess' poses in her chair and her portrait and the lovely way that her point of her hennin just breaks the edges of the frame, of the nurse's absorption in her knitting, the curl of the spaniel's tail and the exquisite squiggle behind it.