Jim Kay of A Monster Calls: Trying Not To Draw

I posted this caption story on my Facebook page then I thought ... why not blog it as well?

I was totally blown away by A Monster Calls - not just Patrick Ness's brilliant take of the late Siobhan Dowd's story idea but by the astounding illustrations of Jim Kay.

The book won both sides of the CILIP prizes this year - the Carnegie Medal for Patrick's words, and the Greenaway Prize for Jim's illustrations.

What's inspiring for someone like me who writes novels for older children is ... it's a novel for older children and yet it's ILLUSTRATED. And stunningly.

This I think is the future of children's books in an era where stories are increasingly viewed as disposable content. The digital revolution is overwhelmingly sweeping away old notions of what a book is. One way forward for publishing is to create these gorgeous, tactile, collectible objects that you can keep forever.

Here's a caption story of Jim Kay's keynote address at yesterday's IBBY/NCRCL Conference on the theme 'Beyond the Book'.

After he read the book the first time, this was the first image Jim sketched which went on to become the most memorable image from the book.

I was surprised to hear Jim say he didn't think that all books should be illustrated because the illustrations might dilute the impact of the words. he also said he tried very hard NOT to draw the scene which he was illustrating. Nor did he draw the boy character with definite features that would take away from the reader's imagination of the character. I was astonished and impressed by Jim's respect for the words and his willingness and generousity to allow the words to keep centre stage.

One of the many studies of the monster. 

Another study of the monster. Jim uses all kinds of printing, montaging, scratching methods to come up with his images. 'Anything to avoid drawing,' he said.

Jim collects old chopping boards. The scratchy, negative like backgrounds were achieved by using ink on paper over a scratchy old chopping board. Who would've thought?

Jim perusing a more traditional bit of drawing for A Monster Calls. Despite 'trying not to draw' he had to do some drawing in some parts to make sure the reader didn't get too lost.

And yes, as we all may have guessed looking at those extraordinary black and white pictures, Jim did take some of his inspiration from Rorschach ink blots.

Here's the cover of A Monster Calls. It was definitely a shoo-in for the Carnegie and the Greenaway!

I was especially moved by this book because the idea originated from Siobhan Dowd, a stellar debut author - I saw her speaking at the London Book Fair about her long road of rejection before she got published. I loved A Swift Pure Cry ... and was shocked when she died of cancer. So much talent lost forever. As a reader, I mourned the books she would never write.

Even so, Siobhan won the Carnegie posthumously with Bog Child. Patrick started with Siobhan's rough idea but A Monster Calls is entirely his novel.