Monday, 29 June 2015

The Oddest Place I've Written - Group Post

Today we've decided to try something a little different and create a joint blog about the oddest place we've written a story. We hope you enjoy.

The Oddest Place I've Written - Lynne Garner

The ideas for my books tend to come when I'm out and about. So I typically only get the chance to jot down the basics of the idea. However I have written two books whilst away from my desk. The first was Dog Did It! I'd just taken part in a day long workshop led by the very talented and lovely Julie Sykes. I'd had this idea for ages but not managed to do anything with it. However with Julie's hints and tips buzzing around in my head and the support of the other students Dog Did It! was ready to burst into life. So the first draft was scribbled in a small note pad on the train home. The second oddest place I've written a picture book story (one that is still looking for a home) was whilst walking the dog. The idea had been floating around my mind for a few weeks. I'd tried to get it down onto paper but it just wouldn't play the game. However as I wandered around the field doing my ball throwing duties it came to me almost fully formed. Eager to keep a record of it before it faded away I wrote the first draft on my phone (between ball throws).        

The Oddest Place I've Written -  Jane Clarke

Was in a hammock in a shared roundhouse in the middle of Los Llanos, Venezuela, after spending the day looking for anacondas. 

The anaconda we spotted was digesting the contents of a big bulge in its tummy and a rhyme popped into my head based on  'There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly...' It's called I Saw Anaconda, and it's due to be published by Nosy Crow next year, illustrated by Emma Dodd.

The Oddest Place I've Written - Moira Butterfield 

When Lynne asked me to think about this subject, I had a problem. The thing is I can hardly write anywhere. In fact I've gone a bit weird about it. I don't like writing in a place where someone might walk in and break my thought process. I can't write where there is music. I do, however, make an exception for trains. I don't know what it is about trains - the rhythmic noise, the confined area, being stuck in a seat - it's all good. I love writing on trains and have been known to go on a journey just to get some writing done. I write longhand in a notebook or pad, and I snigger inside if someone nosily peers over my shoulder, because my writing is illegible to anyone but me and they are foiled (see below). My best ideas come on trains. Ticket to ride please!

If you have a tale to tell about the oddest place you've written please do leave a comment and let us know, we'd love to hear about it.


The Picture Book Den Team

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Exclamation Mark Rehab Clinic by Moira Butterfield

Do you pepper your writing with exclamation marks (called exclamation points in the US)? Picture book and board book authors must get out of the habit. As a sometime editor, I know that it is the mark of an author who hasn't spent enough time editing their work. It’s also the mark of a text written in-house by an editor under pressure. 

I find I sometimes add stray exclamation marks on first drafts. We probably all do it, perhaps because we use exclamation marks a lot more these days on social media. I certainly had a serious habit when I first started writing. Oh yes, I reckon I used many a day back then. But I had to stop, and so do you. We need to edit out those mad little barks at the end of sentences. 

Read this blog as exclamation mark aversion therapy. I'm going to be tough. I want to drill it in. I want authors to stop overusing them and I want editors to stop adding them to work without thinking, as if they're sprinkling salt on their food. 

Use an exclamation mark if someone in your writing is exclaiming – “Wow!”

Or if they are shouting/calling out  “Stop!”

Some of Holly Sterling's great illustrations for a new Quarto series of four books I have coming out next January. 

Or if there is a loud noise. 

New board book art for an upcoming series. A loud noise and a call-out here. 

Otherwise DO NOT use them.

Because picture book and board book texts are short, exclamation mark addiction becomes very obvious and overpowers everything else. Let's be brutal here. If you put them in all over your work  you will come across like some demented over-needy children’s TV presenter, gurning away and trying far too hard to please an audience you have no empathy with. “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is why he didn't write The Great Gatsby! 

Exclamation mark over-user

Remember that an exclamation mark will not convey lovely smiling positivity. It will not convey a happy tone of voice. Used over and over again it will make you look slightly mad. As Terry Pratchett said: “Five exclamation marks. The sure sign of an insane mind.” I think he was talking about a long row of exclamation marks at the end of one sentence (utter, utter madness) but loads of the pesky things in one short book is bad, too. 

Read through some of the best picture books. Note that most of them use one, possibly two exclamation marks at most, and always in just the right place. Then flick through some bargain board books, count up the exclamation marks and breathe deeply to calm your rage (er...that might just be me). Board books are particularly prone to exclamation mark overdose because they’re increasingly put together in-house by stressed editors who can't go back and mull over the work. 

Feeling suitably traumatised by my aversion therapy? Good.
Remember. Only use exclamation marks when someone specifically exclaims or shouts. Like this….


Moira Butterfield

New picture book series, 'Everybody Feels', for Quarto Publishing, out later in 2015.   

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Letterbox Club by Malachy Doyle

I was delighted, some time back, to be asked to be a patron of The Letterbox Club.

One of the best things about being a writer for children is the way that, every now and again, you get direct evidence that the work you're doing is making a real difference. 

The Letterbox Club is a scheme, initiated by Booktrust (in the UK), where children who are placed with foster carers are sent, once a month, packs of books and number games. Many of these children have moved from one placement to another and rarely if ever get mail in the post addressed directly to them. Many have few, if any, books. Many are well below average in attainment levels.

So the big bright Letterbox packs, dropping through their postbox, addressed specifically to over 10000 children across the UK, with books and games chosen to match their current level, are truly exciting. Research has been done to prove beyond a doubt that these packs make a real difference to their reading and numeracy.

The two original Letterbox Club patrons are Dame Jacqueline Wilson and Lemn Sissay. I was asked, when the scheme spread to Northern Ireland, to be a regional patron. I write a letter to each child by name. Some of my books are included in the packs. And I go, every now and again, to a 'Fun Day' to meet the children.

Last Saturday we all met up in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. I read them my new picture book, The Nose that Knows - they seemed pleased to be the first children to see and hear it. I read Too Noisy, and they all joined in (especially a particularly enthusiastic young girl at the front!). I read them a chapter from Pete and the Five-a-Side Vampires and one little boy acted out, to much amusement, the role of Pete's pet dog Blob as he turned into a Werewolf. Everyone, even the adults, joined in the howling. Then we all went off and made models of wolves out of Jumping Clay.

As I was reading one very small boy edged closer and close to me until he was almost sitting in my lap. Afterwards his foster mother told me that, only a few weeks ago, he was so wary of strangers and of coming forward that such behaviour would have been unthinkable.

Dr.Rose Griffiths, founder of the Letterbox Club

The Letterbox Club in Northern Ireland is funded by Fostering Network as part of its Fostering Achievement programme, in partnership with the Northern Ireland Government.  At a time of savage cuts - the NI government support for the Bookstart programme has recently been completely withdrawn - Letterbox Club funding has been guaranteed up to 2016. I very much hope that it will continue beyond that, and that The Letterbox Club, across the UK and possibly beyond, will survive and grow. 


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Exploring Story Cubes - Lynne Garner

In my last post I discussed how you can use a Story Sack to enhance the reading experience of your child. This month I've decided to write a follow-on post about the glory of story cubes.

They're a great addition to any story sack and can be used in a variety of ways, all of which help children meet some of the EYFS goals. For example:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development: making relationships (bonding over play) and building self-confidence 
  • Communication and Language: speaking and listening skills
  • Physical Development: small motor skills (throwing the cubes, holding a pencil)
  • Expressive Arts and Design: being imaginative

So what are story cubes?

Story cubes are small cubes that contain images, these can be used to help you create a story, poem, work of art, anything creative really. You can purchase them or you can make your own. If you prefer to make your own you can create a cube from card (there are loads of templates you can download from the Internet) or up-cycle some old wooden play bricks. Once you're armed with your cubes and are ready to experiment with them here are a few ideas to get you started:

If you choose to purchase a set (typically they come in sets of nine cubes):

Group game - Create a story version one: Throw all nine cubes and each person picks one cube. Decide who goes first and that person has to start the story using the image from their cube as inspiration for their part of the story. The next person then has to add to the story using the image from their cube. Continue in this way until everyone has had a turn. If there are a small number of players e.g. 3 then each person can pick three cubes and use one cube per go until all have been used.

Group game - Create a story version two: Give each player the same number of cubes. Then taking it in turn each player throws one of their cubes and carries on the story from the previous player using the image they've just thrown as inspiration for their section of story.

On your own: Throw the cubes and arrange in a line. Following the sequence of images to create a new story.


  • You don’t have to be literal with the images for example if a rainbow is thrown there doesn’t have to be a rainbow in the sky. Perhaps someone is singing ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ or someone is wearing a rainbow coloured top. 
  • You may wish to record the results of your 'game' so the story it not lost. 

Homemade story cubes: 
You could create a story cube based on a story you've recently read with your child or make a set and use the ideas above. However if you choose to base your story cube on a story you've read then these ideas may be helpful:

What happened? Throw the story cube. Using the image that lands face up to discuss that part of the story. Was it funny? Was it sad? Was it scary? What happened before or after that part of the story?

Rearrange the story: Throw the cube and use the outcome to rearrange the story you’ve read. Perhaps the goodie loses and the baddie wins. Perhaps something the character was afraid of is no longer afraid of. Perhaps something they were bad at they are now fantastic at. You can then explore how this would impact on the story.

I hope this has given you a few ideas for using story cubes and you can see the benefit of adding these to your story sack.

If you decide to experiment with them please do let me know the outcome. 



My writing eCourses starting soon:

Monday, 8 June 2015

Joining In by Jane Clarke

When I started writing picture book texts for children (at the age of 40 , I was a late starter), I didn't tell my friends. I'd snatch an hour here and there, then blindly send off the results to random publishers and keep silent when the rejections arrived. I had no confidence in myself as a writer, and no connection with anyone who was writing – as far as I was aware, I was on my own. I only admitted what I was doing to my immediate family - they were supportive, but in a vague that's-a-nice-hobby sort of way.

I don't think I'd be published now if I'd continued to be secretive about my writing.  I plucked up courage to join an Arvon Foundation  writing course. 
 The first Arvon course I went on was led by Pat and Lawrence Hutchins. It was inspirational to be with people who shared my passion for picture books. 

Then I joined Wordpool
 and SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)
Our own Natascha Biebow is Regional Advisor of the British branch
I participated in lots of critiques, attended what conferences I could get to, and gradually made connections through them which led me to find an agent and get published. They're a wonderfully supportive bunch, too.

As time's gone on, I've become a member of the Scattered Authors Society
 and the Society of Authors (Children's' Writers and Illustrators Group).

It's a joy to attend writing conferences and meet up with people like my fellow PictureBookDenners. I try to give back a bit by running a monthly SCBWI drop in and chat meeting for children's writers and illustrators in Canterbury - I'll set up one in Market Harborough when I move there later this year.

It's also fun to join in with Picture Book Ideas Month in November (you can't register for 2015 until October)

The best writing choice I ever made was to stop being secretive and join in. Please share the names of other groups or organisations that you have joined that have been helpful to you.

The first two books in Jane's new series of How to... board books, wonderfully illustrated by Georgie Birkett, are out this month -yay! 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Long and Winding Road to Publication, by Helen Dineen

Our guest blogger today is author Helen Dineen, who has recently found some picture book inspiration in running! Her tips are designed to help at those times when you perhaps feel you are flagging in your writing quest. 

In April, I enjoyed/endured (more of that later...) the fantastic ABP Half Marathon here in Southampton, UK. 5000 people pounding the streets, all for the joy of crossing the finishing line and getting that well-won medal. It got me thinking about the parallels between that race and the journey to becoming a published author. As everyone knows, it's definitely a marathon, not a sprint!  So, here's my list of 5 ways writing is like running....

1. Training - Every session counts. Even if it hurts, is painfully slow or is pouring with rain (hopefully not unless you are writing in the garden or your roof leaks), it's all adding to the final goal. Not every session will be a personal best. And everyone needs a rest day or two along the way. This month my friend Lorraine has been acting as my writing buddy, making sure I show up each day by messaging me to find out what I've achieved. I've got so much more done as a result!

2. Supporters - It's always good to have people to cheer you on. Especially when you come to that tricky hill, or are just two miles from the end. Around 9 miles of the half marathon, I got cramps and had to powerwalk most of the rest of the race. I was so disappointed, but determined to complete it. Jelly babies from those fantastic supporters really helped, as did seeing my kids' faces at the finish line.

Helen and big supporter Daniel

My SCBWI online critique group and local goal setting group spur me on through those tricky edits or the times when picking up the pen is the last thing I want to do. Most importantly, my agent - aka awesome personal trainer Anne Clark - is always ready to offer advice and support whenever I'm losing a bit of heart.

3. Banners - There were some fantastic signs along the way in Southampton and I'm sure even Paula Radcliffe loves a good banner! Feedback on your writing is also great to keep you moving forward. Whether that's comments from publishers or agents, competitions, or children who have read your stories, keep them handy for the times when you think you just can't be a writer. Don't be afraid to put them up around your PC or on the fridge.

4. Playlist - Many runners swear by a motivational playlist when the going gets tough. And so do writers. A quick poll came up with:

·       Lady Gaga - Born This Way - "when I really need ‘plugging in’ and I’m wondering why I don’t have a ‘proper job’"
·       Gun - Taking On the World - "Some days, it does feel like that."
·       Anything by Primal Scream
·       Korean Pop -  "Bouncy, catchy and because I can't understand a word I'm not distracted by the lyrics."
·       Disney - "Almost There"  from the Princess and the Frog  -(my choice) "A bit of Disney never fails to cheer you up!"

Turn up the volume on whatever will do the trick when it comes to getting your creative spirit fired up again.

And of course, the last thing you need to remember is ...

5. Nutrition - Always fuel up properly for the task ahead.   I could mention nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and plenty of protein, but sometimes only one fuel source will do.

So now you are all prepared to last the course. I'm still putting one foot doggedly in front of the other - hope to see you at the finish!

What's your favourite motivational song, and what else helps you on your writing journey?

Here's mine. Link to official Disney clip -

Helen Dineen is a picture book author represented by the Anne Clark Literary Agency. She also volunteers in a local school and is a part-time child-minding assistant. Find her on Twitter @aitcheldee or pounding the streets of Southampton.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Two heads are better than one: The benefits of early author-illustrator collaboration • Jonathan Emmett

I mentioned in a Picture Book Den post earlier this year that, although people often assume that picture book authors and illustrators work closely together, it’s not unusual for the author and illustrator to have no direct contact, with the book’s creation being co-ordinated via the publisher.

One of my Dutch publishers told me that Dutch authors and illustrators regularly get together with the publisher during a picture book’s production to discuss how the project is progressing. However, if my own experience is anything to go by, regular meetings like this are not the norm in the UK. I’d been writing picture books for ten years before a publisher, Puffin, invited me to get together with illustrator Steve Cox to look at some of Steve’s initial concept sketches for our picture book Pigs Might Fly and discuss how it might be illustrated. Before then, I’d only met two illustrators I’d done a book with and spoken to a couple more on the phone, and this was always after the project was completed.

One reason for this lack of direct contact is that many picture book publishers like to moderate all communication between a book's author and illustrator. In the conventional UK set-up, an author gives any comments or ideas they might have regarding the illustrations to an editor, who then (if they agree with them) passes them on to the illustrator (sometimes via the book's designer). This is obviously a rather slow method of communication and 'Chinese whispers' like misinterpretations can occur. Another disadvantage of the conventional set-up is that while the author has some influence over how the book is illustrated, the illustrator has relatively little influence over how the book is written, the story having been largely hammered out before they are on board.

The line of communication between author and illustrator is often indirect.
(Image taken from my "How a book is Made" school presentations)

When I first started creating picture books I'd intended to both write and illustrate and was in the habit of developing ideas simultaneously in both text and illustration. Although my illustration has largely fallen by the wayside, I still think of stories visually as much as verbally. I'll often get a story idea from looking at an image or conceive a story outline as a series of illustrations. So I've always thought that the conventional set-up, with its lack of direct interaction between author and illustrator, is less than ideal. Fortunately, I've been able to team up with several sympathetic illustrators who have been happy to exchange ideas at an early stage and several of my more recent picture books have been developed in a far more collaborative way.

After Mark Oliver had illustrated my text for Tom’s Clockwork Dragon, he and I were both keen to do another picture book together. So rather than leave it to chance, I asked Mark if there was anything he’d particularly like to illustrate. Mark sent me a list of ideas, one of which – a mechanical monster manual – became Monsters: An Owner’s Guide. We developed the idea between us and when we had a draft of the text and some concept art that we were both happy with, we offered it as a joint project to publishers. Thankfully, Macmillan accepted it and subsequently took Aliens; An Owner’s Guide as a follow-up.

Some of Mark Oliver's early concept art for Monsters: An Owner's Guide

Since then, I’ve worked on several stories where the illustrator has been involved from the initial concept stage and has often provided the initial inspiration. The Treasure of Captain Claw was written in answer to Steve Cox’s wish to illustrate a submarine story and my latest picture book, The Silver Serpent Cup, was written in response to a set of outlandish vehicle models that Ed Eaves had offered as a possible source of inspiration. 

The Silver Serpent Cup and some of the outlandish vehicle models, made by Ed Eaves, that inspired it.

Not all of the author-illustrator collaborations I’ve worked on have made it into print – I wrote two unpublished stories with the late Vanessa Cabban – but I’ve always enjoyed working with the illustrator to create them. And I suspect that, having helped shape the initial concept, the illustrators I’ve created these books with have felt a little more attached to these projects and may have been prepared to lavish a little extra care and attention on them.

Some of Vanessa Cabban's "Clara and Bertie" character sketches from an unpublished project we developed together.

There’s a synergy when text and illustration work well together in a picture book. This happens naturally when the same person is both writing and illustrating, but if the author and illustrator are two different people, such a synergy can be a lot easier to achieve if they get together early on to exchange ideas. I’d certainly recommend it!

Jonathan Emmett's latest collaborative picture book is Fast and Furry Racers: The Silver Serpent Cup illustrated by Ed Eaves and published by Oxford University Press.

Find out more about Jonathan and his books at his Scribble Street web site or his blogYou can also follow Jonathan on twitter @scribblestreet.

See all of Jonathan's posts for Picture Book Den.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Adapting fairy tales - the Little Mermaid by Abie Longstaff

Rewriting fairy tales is always a challenge.

I like to bring the world up to date, to help children engage with the story better. This might include tackling gender, class and diversity issues, as well as making the characters dress and behave in a more contemporary style. Whatever your aims of adaptation, you still need to make sure the story retains enough of the flavour of the original to allow children to identify familiar themes and characters.

The latest Fairytale Hairdresser book - the Little Mermaid - had an added element to tackle. The original Hans Christian Anderson story is very dark and many people are not familiar with the ending. The tale is about sacrifice for love and has strong themes of moral 'goodness'. Anderson's mermaid chooses to swap her tail for legs, even though every step she takes will be like 'treading upon sharp knives'. In the end, she fails to win the heart of her prince and is given one last option to avoid becoming foam on the sea: kill the prince. The Little Mermaid refuses, and instead she throws herself into the ocean to meet her death.

Unsurprisingly, the Disney version has a different ending. In the 1989 film, Ariel and her prince fall in love and she is made a human permanently by her father, King Trident.

Like Disney, I wanted to steer clear suicidal mermaids, but I felt uncomfortable with the film's message of 'change for the one you love' so I spent a long time thinking through what I wanted to say. Why is the mermaid unhappy the way she is? Should she become a human permanently? Should the prince become a mermaid?

In my story (spoiler alert) the little mermaid finds she misses her tail. She returns to being a mermaid and she and her prince (Marino, a diving instructor) spend half of their time in her (underwater) palace:

and half the time in his:

You can read the original Little Mermaid tale here.

The Fairytale Hairdresser and the Little Mermaid is available from Amazon here or Waterstones here and also in independent shops like this one.

Friday, 15 May 2015

How to Write a Vivid Picture Book: Living in the Moment by Natascha Biebow

Recently, a three year-old came to play at our house. When the time came to wash our hands for tea, she stepped up onto the little stool at the kitchen sink and I passed her a bar of soap. “What’s that?” she asked. “Soap,” I replied and showed her how, if you make it a little wet, you can get lots and lots of bubbles out of it. The delight in her face was a wonder. She had never seen soap in a bar before!

Wow, what else, will our modern children soon not recognize, I wondered. Already, talk of CDs

and chalkboards  

elicits a mystified gaze. 

“Did you have telephones, Mommy?” I am asked. Well, yes, I did. But we had to borrow our neighbour’s and making long-distance calls was a big deal

And I looked stuff up in the Encyclopedia Britannica

dusty volumes, also borrowed from our British neighbour in Rio and pored over the tiny type for various homework assignments. Now, we can search for anything we like with a quick click on Google. And plan on the weather (sort of) at a glance on our phones . . .

Recently, I’ve joined the Non-Fiction Archaelogy course run by Kristen Fulton, and recommended by fellow blogger, J Clare Bell. 
(c) Kristen Fulton
One of the first things I’ve re-discovered, is there are stories everywhere you look. This is also one of the aspects of being a writer that I enjoy the most.

So far, this week, I’ve discovered that:

• Goldie the golden eagle was a true Houdini, on the run from London zoo for 12 whole days in 1965, outwitting most adults who tried to capture him and causing a traffic jam in central London

• Another escape artist was Fu Manchu, the orangutan and late resident of the Omaha Zo, foiled zookeepers by picking the locks on his enclosure with a small piece of metal wiring that he kept hidden under his cheek.

• The average child wears down 720 crayons by their 10th birthday

• Harrods once sold an alligator as a Christmas gift for the Noel Coward

• There is a candy desk in the US Senate 
US Candy Desk as pictured on Wikipedia
And . . .

. . . some children have never seen soap!

One of our first tasks in the course has been to find a topic for a non-fiction picture book. It’s got me thinking about narrating a story that might have happened a long time ago so that it’s relevant to contemporary children.

Not only do writers need to research how things were in the past, they need to imagine themselves there so they can show, not tell. Also, importantly, writers of all picture books must capture the child living in the moment. Stories need to be told in ‘real-time’ and flashbacks are discouraged, because pre-school children can’t yet conceptualize time in the way that adults and older children can. This is because they are egocentric; their concept of time is limited to their immediate world and routine. It's only by having experiences involving familiar sequences and routines that they can gradually conceptualize events in the past and future, expanding their world view.

So, when considering their story, it’s important for writers to look around the world through a child’s eyes, with the same freshness, verve and excitement. What we need to do is really step into the main character’s shoes and live the story in the moment, to take the time to envision and describe each scene as if we were there . . .

. . . discovering the wonder of a bar of soap’s bubbles! 

This is no mean feat if you’re living some 100 or so years after the event you are researching. But capturing these little moments of wonder is the key to writing a truly great picture book story and taking today's child reader with you.

Natascha Biebow
Author, Editor and Mentor

Blue Elephant Storyshaping is an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission.  Check out my NEW small group coaching courses!

Natascha is also the author of Elephants Never Forget and Is This My Nose?, editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Regional Advisor (Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Fifties - Didn't we have them once already? - Jonathan Allen

Well, fashions come and go in the world of children's books. I've been only vaguely aware of it throughout my time in the business, but recently it has really become much more obvious. We are in the middle (or the end, please. . .) of a 1950s obsession, and it's starting to get depressing. it's pretty universal, not just children's books, but this is a grumpy rant about Picture Books so I won't go into fabric and interior design. . . ;-)
Not that the style in question is depressing per se, just that the unoriginality of a lot of the stuff out there is depressing. It's the law of diminishing returns, people mindlessly copying people who are copying people who are copying people who are aping particular 1950's styles like that of the wonderful Miroslav Sasek -

– and Cliff Roberts -

and Mary Blair -

and the also wonderful Margaret Bloy Graham -

And Jim Flora -

Don't get me wrong, I love those original artists, and I love the best of the current artists that are influenced by them. There is nothing wrong with being influenced by others, even copying if it leads to your own style.

But. . . . I lose the will to live when I see a style being done to death by those who really should be trying to work out their own style and their own take on the world. Why do they do it? Is it a lack of confidence, or of self respect?
I never understood unthinking fashion following in the first place so it puts me at a disadvantage I guess. Not that I'm trying to occupy some sort of moral high ground. Well, maybe I'll claim a molehill's worth of hieght. After all, we all see ourselves as paragons of discernment, however delusional that view might be, I'm no different ;-)

Is it wholly market led? It may be that the market has pushed artists in this direction. If something is doing well, publishers will want more stuff like it of course.

Is there some correlation between our times and the fifties that leads people to this abstracted, flat, design led style? To the distance these styles keep the viewer from their subject? The fifties seems to have been a time when Modern was seen as good. Now in our more pessimistic times are we nostalgic about that idea and view of The Modern?
Are things so tough and uncertain that we want to stand a safe distance from the world, especially the world we present to our kids? I'm not any kind of psychologist so I don't know the answer to these questions, but I find the idea interesting.

What I do know is that I for one am getting bored sick of it. It's the illustration world's equivalent of all those young men with big beards, shaved sides of heads and plaid/check shirts ;-) That's getting really old too.

Talking of 'old', put the word 'grumpy' and 'man' in there too and you've defined me absolutely. . .

So as a card carrying Grumpy Old Man confronted by this Fifties obsession, I will say, as I've heard Americans say, 'Stick a fork in it and turn it over, it's done!'