Monday, November 12, 2012

“Jack and the Baked Beanstalk” by Colin Stimpson

I occasionally write reviews and articles on illustration and children's books generally, and I was delighted to be asked recently by CBI to review the latest book by Colin Stimpson.
I have admired Colin's work for many years and, as I am also now attempting to write my own stories, I was very impressed by his first effort as author as well as illustrator.
Below is my review as it appears on the CBI website.
I will post various other articles soon.

I first encountered Colin Stimpson’s work when he pipped me in an illustration competition we had both entered just after leaving Art College. He had a real talent back then, and I always thought he would be a great book illustrator. However his career path led him to become an art director and production designer for Disney. Happily, he has started to illustrate books in recent years and in this instance he has also written the story.
In Stimpson’s re-imagining of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, Jack and his mother are running a café from a quaint old van on the edge of a vast 1930’s metropolis. Their café is about to be swallowed up by the development of a huge flyover when Jack gets hold of some magic baked beans.

Just like in the fairy tale, Jack’s mum throws the beans out the window and intrepid Jack climbs the enormous beanstalk which grows up overnight. Living in the castle above the clouds we find a lonely and lovable giant who would prefer to cook nice meals for Jack rather than grinding his bones to make his bread.

Here Stimpson’s story departs from the fairy tale model and it finally leads us to a satisfying and heart-warming ending.

The greatest strength of this book of course lies in Stimpson’s wonderfully atmospheric illustrations. The artist’s experience in designing movies shows in some stunningly dramatic compositions and in his expert use of lighting and control of colour.

His pictures all have a lovely Art Deco flavour, and, although they seem to be finished digitally, he manages to retain a nice organic hand-drawn feel. A delicate scratchy patination gives a sense of timelessness to the whole book. An impressive first effort for Colin Stimpson as author and illustrator, and don’t be surprised if this one ends up as an animated movie.

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