Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Tell Me a Picture

Tell Me a Picture

Quentin Blake
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 12
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2006   ISBN: 1845076877

For many children, pictures are full of possibilites. Children can look at a picture book illustration or a painting in a gallery, and they can see that the picture is telling a story, or perhaps even several stories. They look at the art with eyes that are fresh and curious, and they allow their imaginations to go where they will.

Poet Laureate Quentin Blake has long recognized this fact, and he decided that it would be fun and interesting to create a special exhibit of paintings that children would be able to relate to. The Tell me a Picture exhibit showcased twenty-six paintings and illustrations, and it was on display in London’s National Gallery. Luckily for those of us who could not go to the exhibit, this book was published so that we, from the comfort of our homes, could enjoy the exhibit as well.

For every letter of the alphabet we are presented with a picture. The journey begins with a painting by Avercamp, a Dutch artist whose painting of a winter scene is full of interesting details. On the B page we see a painting created by John Burningham, a well-know British children’s book author and illustrator. This painting shows a little boy driving an old steam train that is chuffing its way across a bridge under a golden yellow moon.

The work of another author and illustrator, Gabrielle Vincent, appears on the V page. Here we see a little mouse standing on a stool as she does the washing up in a kitchen. The kitchen is in a mess, and we cannot help wondering what has happened here.

Each of the paintings are introduced by some of Quentin Blake’s ink pen characters, and then these characters comment on what they have seen, often saying the kinds of things one would expect a child to say. For example, following the picture of the mouse doing the washing up, a little girl character says that she thinks “it’s cruel” to expect a mouse to do so much work. A little boy character wonders “How do you think they got all those plates dirty?” Which is a very good question.

At the back of the book, “Another Word of Explanation” from Quentin Blake introduces a section where readers of all ages can get more information about each of the paintings showcased in the exhibit. For each painting or illustration we find out a little bit about the painting and its creator.