Sunday, 1 February 2015

All About: Sheep

For the second in our series 'All About Animals', we are looking at the super world of sheep! Thinking forward to spring and an end to these long dark nights, and also of Chinese New Year with the upcoming Year of the Sheep, we will again explore an artwork, a piece of written archive and a book from the Seven Stories Collection.

Original artwork for Little Baa, by Kim Lewis (Walker Books, 2001) Illustration © Kim Lewis
Original artwork for Little Baa, by Kim Lewis (Walker Books, 2001) Illustration © Kim Lewis
Our featured piece of artwork this month comes from one of the largest collections of picture book illustration in the archive - Kim Lewis. This artwork from Little Baa, first published in 2001, tells the story of the eponymous lamb 'Little Baa' and his separation from his very worried mother, 'Ma'. A well known story to any familiar with the British countryside is the loud baa-ing of ewe and lamb whilst they desperately try to find each other, incredibly evocative. It is also a story close to our heart, as it is based in our nearby Northumberland landscape, where author and illustrator Kim Lewis lives.

The archive holds not only all the beautiful coloured pencil final artwork for the book, complete with annotations for print both in English and Chinese, but also draft text for the book, reference images, sketches, proof copies, and a dummy book with rough sketches for the layout. This is a similar range to the other books from Kim Lewis also held here - Floss, Willa and Old Miss Annie, Friends, the Poppy's Farm series, A Quilt for Baby, Here We Go Harry, Hooray for Harry, and A Puppy for Annie.

This artwork for Willa and Old Miss Annie was purchased for the collection in 2006, and the rest of the archive was very kindly donated by Kim Lewis in August 2008.
Typescript draft for Babe, the Sheep-Pig, by David Wood, May 1997. A play adaptation based on the book by Dick King-Smith.
A well loved sheepy story, Babe, the Sheep Pig, originally written by Dick King-Smith in 1983 and adapted as a play for children by the playwright David Wood. This was shortly after it had been a huge hit in cinemas in 1995. The files on this adaptation contain copious notes on the play, a very detailed synopsis, and 5 different drafts of the final play. 

Shown here is an example from the second - and helpfully typed, occasionally hand written manuscripts can be quite difficult to decipher! - draft. It is open to show the first meeting between our hero Babe, and his first ever encounter with a sheep - also called 'Ma'. One of my particular favourites, as it plays on the ever funny 'ewe'/'you' confusion! Here we get a flavour of the attitude and language the sheep use in this story, and you can even see evidence of David changing the grammar to make it fit better with the accent of the sheep.

The collection holds a huge volume of material from this prolific playwright, with over 40 plays catalogued, and even more in the cataloguing backlog to be added to the system next year, it is a truly overwhelming and fantastic archive. To give you a brief flavour of the other classics Wood has adapted for stage, see this prestigious list: Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Noddy, Spot's Birthday Party, The Twits and many, many more.
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories, by Isaac Bashevis Singer and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, (Harper & Row, 1966)
For our book this month, I've chosen Zlateh the Goata book of short stories written by Polish-born, Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer. This year's Chinese New Year is the Year of the goat or ram, so we thought it appropriate to include. Published in 1966, this was Bashevis' first book for children, it was a runner-up for the Newberry Medal in 1967, and in 1978 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The author learned these folk tales as a small boy in pre-World War I Poland, listening to his mother's bedtime stories. Simply illustrated by the famous Maurice Sendak, just three years after the release of his classic Caldecott Medal winning Where the Wild Things Are, the black and white 'pictures' work perfectly with the spirit of the stories.

An appropriate story for this cold month, Zlateh and Aaron set out to market - Aaron has been tasked with selling the poor goat to help his family survive the cold winter, and pay for their Hannukah supplies whilst his father's furrier business is doing poorly. Boy and goat get trapped in a snow storm, and it is only together that they can survive, with Aaron cuddling his goat and drinking her milk. Finally the pair are rescued, and happily the story ends well - Zlateh no longer has to go to market, and because of the cold weather, the family business is now booming!

This book comes from the Vera Coleman Modern Picture Book Collection: award winners and their books. Dating from c. 1930 – 1990 these books were collected together as either each title or its illustrator had been awarded a major (mostly American) prize such as the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, or American Institute of Graphic Arts Award.  The collection (a total of 560 books) was purchased by Seven Stories in 2002. The range of the collection, in terms of styles, genres and design, is extremely varied and includes the work of illustrators across America, Europe and Australasia.

If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Stories Collection, then 
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