I encountered Oliver Jeffers’ books recently when I was in Goa a fortnight ago for a Library educators’ course. It was love at first sight – the moment I started reading his books, I knew that this was what I had always wanted picture books to be – a meaningful coming together of words and images to create a tale that floods your senses, and stimulates your grey cells – all at once.
Jeffers has produced several pictures books, both singly and in collaboration. One that I have particularly liked, is The Heart and the Bottle. It’s about a little girl who loved exploring and discovering and learning new things, until she experiences a terrible loss. Not prepared to deal with it, she locks away her heart in a bottle. What happens next? Does she ever take it out again? As you read on to find out, you learn about the devastating effects of grief, about recovery, healing and happiness. That’s the Jeffers magic for you.
Another of his books that moved me is a book about books, about the magic of stories. Jeffers wrote A Child of Books in collaboration with Sam Winston. The narration begins with a little girl (I am a child of books, I come from a world of stories, And upon my imagination, I float) who sets sail on a sea of words …
And arrives at the house of a little boy and invites him to join her on her journey into the power of imagination. It’s a highly intertextual book and refers to almost forty famous works of literature. The reader thus simultaneously goes on her own journey, as she spots the references and revisits those stories.
A Child of Books is a homage to all the amazing children’s classics that have been a part of the authors’ growing up years (and mine!). Since Jeffers and Winston both feel that reading is a visceral and sensual experience, the text from the classics form a part of this book. For instance, when the girl sets sail, the sea is made up of words taken from famous sea-faring stories.
Winston with his exceptionally fine typographic art and Jeffers with his hauntingly lyrical illustrations have created a modern children’s classic in this book.