I have long loved Graeme Base‘s books; they are amazing in both prose and illustrations (of which he does both). Although I focused on a picture book author last week, Graeme Base writes for older readers (from upper primary school children to adults).
Before I discuss his writing, I just have to pay tribute to Base’s stunningly beautiful and detailed illustrations. These highly detailed illustrations are not only beautifully drawn on a surface level, in many of his books they include hidden pictures, intricate details and even clues. Some examples:
(Notice the hidden monkey in the bottom left or the tarantula on the right? There are ten hidden animals on this page worked into the detail of the trees, etc.)
The Eleventh Hour
(Why yes, the numbers on the game board are out of order… a clue perhaps?)
The detailed illustrations are complemented with clever, and often witty, prose, including well-written rhyme and alliteration.
“Diabolical dragons daintily devouring delicious delicacies.” (Animalia)
“Now Bertie knocked at Number Four… but silence reigned supreme.
The door swung open soundlessly, as if it were a dream,
For this was where Miss Poodle lived, ‘The Mademoiselle of Mime’,
And for an hour, without a sound, she acted out the crime.” (pg. 14, Enigma)
Picture Books for Older Readers
With the exception of The Waterhole and perhaps Animalia (as they can both be enjoyed by younger readers), the majority of Graeme Base’s picture books are aimed at older primary school readers (or even adults). They include complex language, mysteries to get the reader thinking and a sense of adventure. They often also include historical and geographical references.
“Sorry to hear the raid was a bit of a flop, but I don’t see how it was my fault. I can’t help it if the Ancient Britons are onto us and have moved inland. Frankly I think the bottom is falling out of this Viking business and we should look at reindeer farming or something instead.” (pg. 6, The Discovery of Dragons)
“That night Sprocc played his music as he never had before,
A sea of sound that rose and fell upon a rhythmic shore.
‘Nice meshing, Sprocc-groob!’ Stickman called. ‘You’ve really got it down!
This joint ain’t heard a mesh like this since SkatMan came to town.’” (The Worst Band in the Universe)
Graeme Base’s books need to be experienced in person to fully understand how clever and beautifully illustrated they are. It is easy to spend hours immersed in their pages.
A side note in regards to Aussie Author Month:
One of the aims of Aussie Author month is to raise awareness and funds for the Indigenous Literacy Project – a project that aims to raise Literacy levels amongst Inigenous Australians living in rural and remote communities. You can learn more here: http://www.indigenousliteracyproject.org.au/ and you can donate to the project as part of Aussie Author month here: http://www.gofundraise.com.au/page/ausbooks