Exclusive Jackie Morris illustrations
Published on: 12 Rhagfyr 2016 Author: Robbie Hunt
We talk to inspirational artist, illustrator and writer Jackie Morris about myth, her favourite books, and writing and drawing in nature.
Many of your books are myth retellings or have mythical elements - why do you think myth is of continuing importance for young readers?
We learn so many things through stories. Myths were made partly to teach, through the experience and the lives of others. Myths like Beowulf have lasted for centuries. I still remember the first time I heard it. It ran through my blood and my brain like something long forgotten but always known.
I think it's important to read old myths and make new ones for children today, and also that myths from around the world can teach us so much, about ourselves, about each other.
We know that you spend a lot of time outside, writing and painting and drawing in nature. How does that have an impact on your work?
I have always loved being outside, being in open spaces rather than in city streets. I live in a small cottage and the landscape through which I walk is heather and gorse, rock and wild grass, peopled with birds, foxes and badgers, shy weasels and seals.
It's how I work, walking with ideas in my head, searching for images in my mind's eye, or stories and words. I need to walk, but also to sit and watch the clouds move over land and sea, with only the sounds of the wind moving across the land and through the wings of wild birds. It's where my work comes from, where my heart finds peace.
What were your favourite books as a child?
My Friend Flicka, Mary Stewart's Arthurian books, White Fang, Call of the Wild, books about animals whose names I have forgotten now. We didn't have many books when we were children, but I did go to the library and the best thing about school was the library.
What books can you recommend for parents who'd like to make time at Christmas to share some mythical stories with their children?
East of the Sun and West of the Moon and The Wild Swans, written and illustrated by me, are good for all the family, and I hope The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow will work its way into people's homes.
The Brides of Rollrock Island is a wonderful one, drawing on the selkie myth, by Margo Lanagan. It's for teens rather than young children, but wonderful in its language and ideas.
And The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff. It's not a myth, but it fits into the mind like a myth does.
I think collections of stories from around the world are wonderfully important. The publisher Tiny Owl produces a whole collection of beautifully illustrated picture books that will open up Persian mythology to children. Their books are building bridges between cultures - and we need bridges, not walls.
Nicola Davies and Petr Horacek's First Book of Animals isn't mythical but it's the kind of book that I would have worn to tatters as a child. It's beautiful and it slips facts about wild creatures sideways into the mind and memory with the power of poetry.
Ted Hughes' Tales of the Early World is just wonderful. The Crow's Tale by Naomi Howarth is beautiful. And I love Isobelle Carmody's books.
Daughter of the Forest for older children again, by Juliet Marillier, another take on The Wild Swans. And there is a beautiful picture book of The Wild Swans illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert.
See illustrations from several of Jackie Morris's books
Guardian Dragon from Tell Me a Dragon
Image 1 of 12
Hatchlings from Tell Me a Dragon
Image 2 of 12
Sleeping Dragons from Tell Me a Dragon
Image 3 of 12
Sun and Stars from Tell Me a Dragon
Image 4 of 12
Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow cover
Image 5 of 12
Song of the Angel Cat from Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow
Image 6 of 12
String of Stars from Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow
Image 7 of 12
Winter Gathering from Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow
Image 8 of 12
Caged from White Fox
Image 9 of 12
Fox and Ship from White Fox
Image 10 of 12
Fox Statue from White Fox
Image 11 of 12
Sol and Fox Sleeping from White Fox
Image 12 of 12