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Varoom 18: Children’s Books

Noted: Reflections & Process

Quetzal Léon Calixto, Art Director at Ediciones SM Mexico, was one of three judges for the Fundación SM International Award for Illustration at this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Along with Antonio Faeti, Italian expert in children’s Literature and internationally renowned illustrator Kitty Crowther, he selected the 2012 winner of this annual award granted to one of the young illustrators selected each year from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition.

We asked Quetzal about why the judges selected this year’s winning book Die Grosse Flut / The Great Flood by It’s Raining Elephants (Nina Wehrle and Evelyne Laube). Kitty Crowther and It’s Raining Elephants give their views in Varoom 18.

 What did the judges like best about Nina and Evelyne’s images?

The images of Nina and Evelyn have a particular and uncomfortable atmosphere to assist their story, and the story talks about a dark and disturbing future. And the use of graphic pencils to draw is uncomfortable too.

Was the drawing an important element?
Drawing is the base for any illustration, it’s a very important element. For many illustrators drawing is a signature. For me, the line (and any drawing is a line) is a mirror to the artist, and the drawing is also the most intimate tool of expression. In a drawing you can see the illustrator and their story without makeup (or embellishment? in a natural state?). The drawing is essential.

What made their illustrations stand out from the other entrants?
Within the language of illustration for kids and the young, the images of Nina and Evelyn are not easy, they are not comfortable images. For me and the other jury members, these images exist in the dangerous space between art and illustration. You can put these images inside an art gallery, but it’s not their place, and you can use the images in a book, but here’s a question: Is a book the place for them?

Do you think children find their illustrations appealing?
It’s a difficult question. I think to we have a strange idea about what a child likes, a market idea, an educational idea, etc. But in my experience working with children (not only making educational children’s books), what a child likes is always open to many kinds of images, including images like Nina and Evelyn’s.

As a publisher and art director at Ediciones SM, I think Nina and Evelyn work can “click” easily with the young reader, but not so well with a child reader. But, I insist, children have a great capacity to comprehend the “other”.

In this particular case I think Nina and Evelyn need to work with a publisher, someone to guide them towards the illustrated children’s book. I’m really sure we can do a great book with Nina and Evelyn. We will have to wait to see.

Click here to purchase Varoom 18 and read Kitty Crowther’s review of Die Grosse Flut.


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