Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cultivating Those Little Imaginations

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cultivating Those Little Imaginations

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

Impossibly portly pigs, splendid cockerels and talking scarecrows offer another tantalising glimpse of what the new Centre for the Children's Book holds in store.

The facility, Britain's first library, archive and study centre devoted to children's literature, is due to open at 30-34 Lime Street, Byker, Newcastle, in 2005.

But it has already amassed a superb archive (stuff that would otherwise have lain in drawers or gone overseas) and a lengthening CV of exhibitions devoted to a largely unsung artform.

The exhibition which opened at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, at the weekend is called Fantasy Farm and it runs alongside a twin display devoted to the work of Northumberland author and illustrator Kim Lewis.

Lewis lives on a farm at Bellingham and meticulously records what she sees. Her popular books are loved by many thousands of young readers and also those who just like to look at the pictures.

The overall title of the exhibition is called Over The Hills And Far Away. The Fantasy Farm element shows how agriculture has fired the imagination of children's authors over the years.

A short step away from Lewis's faithful reflection of farm life lie animals that talk, shout, sing, laugh and even live out their whole farmyard lives underwater (courtesy of the recent Underwater Farmyard - words by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrations by Joel Stewart).

The exhibition ought to appeal to children for obvious reasons. The recreation of Kim Lewis's studio in one part of the gallery offers a chance to view the world through an author's eyes and to draw pictures to be displayed on the wall. There's even a wooden farm to play with.

In the Fantasy Farms section, some popular children's books are displayed along with the original artwork and manuscripts.

Some of the pictures are beautiful. Martin Waddell's Farmer Duck, a sort of Animal Farm for youngsters, is enhanced by a series of meticulous illustrations by Helen Oxenbury that you could cheerfully put on your wall at home.

Waddell is described as Ireland's foremost author of books for young people. He has more than 80 to his name including Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? …

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