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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

Maurice Sendak

I was very saddened to hear in May this year of the death of one of the greatest children’s authors/illustrators of our time - Maurice Sendak. It seems therefore a good time to look back on the career of this remarkable man, remembered so fondly by so many, young and old.

Born on June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, USA, Sendak was the youngest of three children. Unfortunately he was also the frailest of the three and spent a fair bit of his childhood confined to bed. At the age of two and a half he was sick for thirteen weeks after contracting measles followed by double pneumonia! This is where his love of books and illustrations began as when he was confined to bed he would use his time drawing and sketching.

Arthur Rackham

What artist do you know that has illustrated classics including 'The Wind in the Willows' 'Peter Pan' 'Alice in Wonderland' 'The Sleeping Beauty' 'Cinderella' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Fairy Tales of theBrothers Grimm'?

Born in London, in 1867, Arthur Rackham's magical illustrations have attained a classic status, making his books among the most highly collected of all illustrated stories. Rackham himself however, has remained a shadowy figure, as elusive as the fairies and gnomes that inhabit many of his pictures. 

Left: Arthur Rackham, photograph taken c.1890

Right: 'A Fairy Song'. Pen & ink watercoulour, 1928-1929.

Eileen Soper

Eileen will inevitably be most famous for her illustrations in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Series , but there is so much more to be told. At one point she was running three careers in parallel; that of a respected wildlife author, a noted children’s illustrator and a commercial artists for among others The National Association of Mental Health Education and the Central Council for Heath Education.

Eileen was born in 1905, the second daughter of George and Ada Soper. When Eileen was three years old the family moved to a new house built by George in the Hertfordshire countryside. This house, christened Wildings by Eileen after her Fathers death in 1942, is where Eileen and her sister Eva spent most of their life. Eileen was a woman of extreme drive, single mindedness and business acumen who chose to isolate herself at Wildings with its large garden.

Jessie M. King

Jessie M. King is an illustrator's name I have heard many times since I started working at Stella Books but somehow I never seem to see any of her illustrations. Well, that all changed the other day when a copy of Mummy's Bedtime Story Book came into stock. It has one of those book covers which says to you "look at me!" with its bright colourful boards, yet having a certain essence about it which says "I am an old book". I find this an unusual combination as most of our pre-World War II children's books tend to either have bright pictorial wrappers or understated but elegantly decorated boards, not the brash colourful boards of this book. Anyway this has inspired me to do some research and try and find out some more about Jessie King.

Edmund Dulac

Edmund Dulac was born in Toulouse, France, on 22nd October 1882. His early life was influenced by his father, who was a commercial traveller in textiles and dealt with paintings on the side, and his uncle who sold Japanese prints. At a very early age Dulac began painting himself, with the oriental theme of his uncle's Japanese prints creeping in, forming his own much loved style.

Left: The illustrator Edmund Dulac

As a young man Dulac decided that he would venture to London and concentrate on magazine illustration; he settled in London permanently in the autumn of 1904.

Edmund Dulac was only 22 when he received his first important book commission. The publishers J.M.Dent approached him to illustrate a new edition of the complete novels of theBronte sisters. Dulac provided 60 watercolour illustrations for the 10 volumes which were issued between April and July 1905.

Quentin Blake

Sometimes it can be hard to place a metaphorical finger exactly on what it is that makes us enjoy a particular author or illustrator. But in the case of Quentin Blake surely it is his idiosyncratic use of fast yet precise pen strokes that convey exuberant movement and a sense of excitement.

Left: an example of Quentin Blake's energy-charged illustrations -"When we're trying to catch a mouse, We ALL JOIN IN". Taken from All Join In by Quentin Blake.

Right: "Yes, Dad," the son said. "I've got that." Illustration from Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Quentin Blake is one of Britain 's most popular and successful illustrators - indeed, to use a rather irksome phrase, it could be said that he is a 'national institution'. A prolific illustrator, he has provided the artwork for over 300 books by authors such as Michael Rosen, Joan Aiken and Russell Hoban. However, Quentin Blake is perhaps best known for his long-standing and remarkably successful collaboration with Roald Dahl in which he delighted audiences with depictions of favourite characters such as The BFG, Matilda and The Witches.

Edward Ardizzone

With a career spanning 52 years illustrating over 170 books,Edward Ardizzone was one of the most prolific illustrators of the 20th century and remains one of the most sought-after. His distinctive style is immediately recognisable with its cross-hatched pen and ink drawings and bright colourwash pictures. So how did this shy, quiet individual who started his working life as a lowly clerk come to be an established illustrator and official War Artist?

Edward Jefferey Irving Ardizzone was born in Haiphong, China on 16th October 1900 but it wasn't until 1905 that the family settled in England. His father Auguste was Italian by birth but became a naturalised Frenchman. His mother, Margaret, was half English and half Scots. Auguste spent his entire professional life working for the Eastern Telegraph Company while Margaret, having studied painting in Paris, continued to paint in water-colour after her marriage. It was she who influenced the young Ardizzone and encouraged him in his early artistic efforts.

Cecil Aldin

Cecil Aldin became a household name known for his paintings in the late 1800's. He produced a diversity of dog portraits andsporting scenes for which he had a steady flow of admirers. Less well known are his posters, chalk drawings of inns, manor houses, and cathedrals, superb equestrian pastels and, pencil & wash sketches of the countryside.

Born on 28th April 1870 in Slough, son of Charles Aldin, a builder, and his wife, Sarah. He was a wiry red-haired boy who started sketching by 6 years of age. His early drawings had a recurring theme of a rider being thrown from a horse, expressing his developing sense of humour.

Lawson Wood

When tidying along the shelves in the Annuals section at Rose's books I find that the shelf below the 'Girl' annuals and above the 'Greyfriars Holiday' annuals always seems to take a little longer. The reason? This is the shelf where the Gran'Pop Annuals live and I can't resist a peep at the illustrations within. I have to smile every time I see an illustration of the charming ape family; I love the detail, from the expressions on the apes' faces to the human characteristics shown in the subject matter. As I enjoy these illustrations so much I decided, via the internet, to find out a little more about their creator - Lawson Wood.

Jacqueline Wilson

"A brilliant writer of wit and subtlety whose stories are never patronising and often complex and many-layered" (The Times)

"She has a rare gift for writing lightly and amusingly about emotional issues" (Bookseller)

"She's so good, it's exhilarating" (Philip Pullman, Guardian)

Only one modern children's author could be worthy of such praise - Jacqueline Wilson!

The author of over 80 books, nearly all of which have been translated into more than 30 languages, Jacqueline Wilson has sold over 20 million copies in her lengthy and continuing career. In 2002 she was awarded the prestigious OBE for Services to Literacy in Schools. However, the author is no stranger to awards, having been winner of theChildren's Book of the Year, winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Award, highly recommended for the Carnegie Medal, winner of the Smarties Prize, three times winner of the Red House Children's Book Award, and also, the ultimate accolade, winner of the Children's Laureateship for 2005-2007. 

Percy F. Westerman

Is he the successor to G.A. Henty or the forerunner to W.E. Johns? Percy F. Westerman has been described as both and we shall look at why in the following paragraphs. Although not as well-known as Henty or Johns, Westerman was a highly prolific and successful author, writing 174 novels and contributing to many other publications. These included The CaptainMagazine, The Scout, Boy's Own Paper, Modern Boy, and, I suspect, many as yet uncollected publications, as well as short story publications such as the Story Papers of D.C. Thomson which do not usually credit author.

Percy Francis Westerman was born in 1876. His father was a clerk in the Portsmouth Naval Dockyard and his family was steeped in Navy connections. Percy's ambition was to take a full part in the Royal Navy but this was never to be as with poor eyesight he could not pass the compulsory physical examination. To compensate for this he spent all his free time sailing along the coast and rivers of the West Country - indeed his first writings, published in yachting magazines, were about these trips.

H.G. Wells

The world famous author of some of our favourite science fiction novels, War Of The Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Time Machine but there is just so much more to the man.

Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent in 1866, where his father was a housekeeper and a professional cricketer, and his mother a part time housekeeper at the Uppark Estate. In his early childhood Wells developed a love of literature and could often be found studying books in the library. After his father’s business failed, he became, along with his brothers, an apprentice to a draper.

In 1893 Wells became a pupil/teacher at Midhurst Grammar School and obtained a scholarship to the normal school of Science in London. At the Normal school he studied biology under T.H. Huxley, but never managed to complete his studies, leaving in 1887 when his interest faltered. After teaching at private schools for 4 years he finally obtained his degree in 1890. In following year he married his cousin Isabel, and by 1893 became a full time writer.

Ivor Waters

Ivor Waters - for us, working here at Stella books, a familiar name among the thousands of books lining the shelves. Born in Chepstow in 1907, Harry Ivor Waters lived at 41 Hardwick Avenue. His family have roots in Chepstow going back to the late 1600s, at least. Perhaps it was only natural that he had a deep interest in all things pertaining to the history of Chepstow and produced many booklets and books about the area.

In the late 1920s Ivor won a poetry prize run by Britannia Magazine and used the prize money to finance foreign holidays. He studied Spanish and French at degree level, becoming so successful in Spanish that the Spanish Government presented him with a book! The war years were spent with service in Intelligence where his language skills proved to be immensely useful.

Martin Waddell

You might not have heard of Martin Waddell. In fact, even if you do know of him, you might think that he is far too new an author to have made any impact on the world of children’s literature. You would be mistaken!

Born on April 10th, 1941 in the city of Belfast, Waddell’s first night of life was spent under a metal-topped table sheltering from bombs during the Second World War. His childhood was spent in Belfast during a period of political unrest. This was to have a deep impact on the author.

Martin Waddell’s first ambition in life was to become a professional footballer. However, this was not to be and his next career choice was to be an author. Initially, Waddell intended to write adult fiction, much of which was influenced by his background and surroundings. A lot of his work was written under the pseudonym of Catherine Sefton. The name Martin Waddell was kept for books he described as ‘for amusement only’. However, his forte was writing for children.

Alison Uttley

Alison Uttley is probably best known for her Little Grey Rabbit books written for children. However, during her very successful career she wrote about 120 books on various subjects for children and adults. Her varied interests in dreams, time travel and country matters provided material for her writings, often revealing a woman of both sensitivity and perception.

Today her books are as much loved as they ever have been and remain popular to both adults and children. They have been reprinted on numerous occasions and the values of the first editions in particular have steadily risen in the last decade.

Alison was born in Derbyshire on 17th December 1884. She was christened Alice Jane Taylor, adopting the name Alison upon publication of her first book. Alison spent her childhood living on her parent’s farm. Life here was happy and secure and allowed her to develop a love of the countryside around her. Until the age of 7 Alison was taught at home by her mother. She then went to Lea Board School at Holloway about 2 miles from her home.

Derek Tangye

Derek Tangye (1912-1996) was a very well known author who lived in Cornwall for the most part of his life from the 1950s onwards. He wrote more than twenty books which became known as the Minack Chronicles - all about life on a flower farm situated between Penzance and Land's End.

The book I read was 'The Way to Minack'. I was hoping it would tell me about how he and his wife, Jeannie, came to be at 'Minack', a quiet cottage in a isolated spot of Cornwall. However, this book is an autobiography (as are all the Minack chronicles) which leads up to the end of his time in London, just before moving to Minack. Derek had never been away from Minack in fourteen years and a friend planted seeds of doubt by asking 'What do you miss?' (about London). So he and Jeannie take a trip to London to remind themselves of why they left in the first place.

E.H. Shepard

E.H. SHEPARD Born on the 10th of December 1879, in St. John's Wood, at No. 55 Springfield Road. Ernest Howard Shepard was the youngest of three children.

In his first volume of his memoirs, 'Drawn from Memory', Shepard vividly recounts memories of his early life, reinforcing some of the more memorable moments with illustrations. An example of this is featured below. Septimus (the horse) is pictured in the background, a gift to Shepard from his 'Godmother-Aunt'. He thought that there must have been some "divine influence" leading his Aunt "away from the more useful gifts" and "that the Angel Garbriel disguised as the shop walker in Mr. James Shoolbred's Store, has led her to Septimus".

Peter Scott

The late Peter Scott, son of the famous polar explorer Captain Robert Scott, was a man of many and varied talents. He was probably most famous as a conservationist - he established the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in 1946 and later co-founded the World Wildlife Fund. He was also an accomplished sportsman, winning an Olympic Bronze Medal for solo dinghy sailing, and holding the title of British Open Gliding Champion, as well as being a skilled ice skater.

His atmospheric wildfowl paintings are well known, and he was author and illustrator of numerous books in addition to making appearances on television and radio.

 Books by Peter Scott.

Peter Scott wrote and illustrated books including 'Wild Chorus', 'Morning Flight', 'A Thousand Geese', 'Wild Geese and Eskimos', and his autobiography 'The Eye of the Wind', plus many more. He also illustrated an edition of Paul Gallico's 'The Snow Goose', and his pictures have featured regularly in the WWT's annual publication 'Wildfowl'. 

Malcolm Saville

British author Leonard Malcolm Saville was born on the 21st February 1901 in Hastings, Sussex. Sent away to boarding school at the age of nine, he received the majority of his education at the Richmond Hill School in Surrey.

On leaving school at the age of 16, he stepped into the world of the book trade, when he started work for the Oxford University Press where he found books to fulfill booksellers' orders. After a short stay at Cassell and Company in their publicity department, he began work for The Amalgamated Press in London in the same post, but was later promoted to Sales Promotion Manager.

The Savery Sisters - Children of the vicarage

A little over one hundred years ago the Savery sisters, Winifred, Doreen, Christine, Phyllis, and Irene, posed for a seaside snapshot.  Their father, Rev. John Manly Savery, had exchanged livings at that time, leaving the flowering countryside of Froxfield in Wiltshire for a Birmingham parish, where there was a sooty garden but better schools and, presumably, an extra shilling or two at month's end.

Left: The Savery sisters, Winifred, Doreen, Christine, Phyllis, and Irene, as neatly haloed as a fond parent could wish (about 1906)

Even so, times were hard, and the oldest daughter, Winifred, wrote an unpublished account of how the fire was set ablaze in the hearth and the girls dressed in church finery for a visit from the bishop's wife.  When the visitor sent word that she would not be there, the fire was raked out to save coal, the Sunday dresses were hung up again, and a special treat (oranges to be sucked through sugar cubes) was distributed. Inevitably, the distinguished visitor arrived after all to be greeted by sticky girls in a chilly parlour!