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Illustrated treasures: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Tadaa, it’s time to introduce the fourth book in my collection of inspiring children’s books: a book written and illustrated by Peter Brown (who has sort of become my illustration hero).


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Badge of greatness for the expressive illustrations and visual storytelling


One day at a children’s book shop, a beautifully green cover caught my eye. My hand reached for it, and almost immediately after opening the book it became clear: I would need this title to be part of my children’s book collection!

Now that book is in my bookshelf, and it is called Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. It’s a story about a tiger, who gets bored with the conventional life in his conventional hometown, where he lives with animals, who embrace being proper. Mr. Tiger begins to express his wilder side and little by little builds up the courage to break free from the rules of convention. The wild behaviour of Mr. Tiger affects the entire town and eventually leads to everyone questioning the way they have been living. It’s a beautiful, uncomplicated story about being yourself and accepting others as they are.

Story-wise, the text has been kept straight-forward and minimal, making the book an ideal read even for small children. However, whilst the text is simple, the book offers plenty of variety when it comes to visual storytelling. Peter Brown has certainly stepped away from the conventional (pun intended!) text-between-images kind of layout that so often dominates children’s book design. Creative use of the gutter, playful speech bubbles and fully illustrated spreads with no text at all carry the plot in a visually strong manner, highlighting the turning points in the story.

The illustration style in the book is absolutely wonderful. I love the contrasting combination of geometrical shapes, straight lines and soft, organic paint textures. The book’s colour palette is also cleverly aligned to the different elements in the story; grey shades add to the feeling of convention, lush tones of green express the wilder side of things and the bright orange colour of Mr. Tiger sets him apart from the other characters. Brown has also done a great job at keeping the characters fairly simple whilst still managing to add life and a range of expressions on their faces.

All in all, Mr Tiger Goes Wild is an admirable example of how much design thinking and research there is behind a well illustrated story. I highly recommend watching this film clip of  Peter Brown himself sharing some of the process behind the book:

Author and Illustrator Peter Brown On His Process.

Illustrated treasures: Astronautin rusinapulla

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the third book in my archive of inspiring children’s books: a rhyming Finnish poetry book (which unfortunately hasn’t been translated to English) written by one of my favourite children’s book authors, Jukka Itkonen.


Astronautin rusinapulla
Loosely translated: Astronaut’s Raisin Bun
Written by Jukka Itkonen, illustrated by Matti Pikkujämsä

Badge of greatness for playful rhymes and matching visuals


astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaI love, love, love rhymes, and when I first came across the children’s books of Jukka Itkonen, it was literally literary love at first page. The prolific Finnish writer has written multiple rhyming poetry books for children under different themes, and now I will present you one of them: Astronaut’s Raisin Bun. The theme of this collection of poems is food: where it comes from, who makes it and how it is eaten. The poems introduce a number of different characters and their food-related stories. There’s a picky eater, a real culinarista, a secret agent and a pizza baker, just to mention a few. The characters are exhilaratingly recognisable and the choice of words in the poems are sure to give the reader – young or old – the giggles.

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaInstead of focusing on fantasies (although Astronaut’s Raisin Bun does feature a superman), the books of Itkonen tend to give a witty spin to perfectly normal things, portraying them from a humorous point of view. As you might remember from the previous book feature, I’m a huge fan of writers who have this kind of realistic yet amusing approach to their stories. 

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaWhen it comes to illustrations, Astronaut’s Raisin Bun is not the only book that Jukka Itkonen and the illustrator Matti Pikkujämsä have collaborated on. And if you ask me, that’s no wonder – the raw brush strokes of Pikkujämsä go really well with the uncomplicated, humorous text. Also the typographic choice of hand-written titles combined with a typewriter font compliments the style of the book well. All in all, I think the written and visual elements of the book compliment each other beautifully, making a great, coherent package.

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaastronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaMy favourite poem in the book is about a grandma, who reminisces her childhood in a pizzeria. It was so wonderfully fun that I had to make my own grandma read it, too! To give you a taste of the poems in the book, here’s a snippet of it (in Finnish):

Isoäiti pizzeriassa

Muistot tulvii mieleeni,
ja kerron vähän tästä
minun lapsuudestani
ja maalaiselämästä.

Ennen vanhaan eläminen
oli erilaista.
Ei meille ruokaa lennätetty
kaukaisista maista.

Kirnupiimää hörpittiin
ja syötiin piirakoita.
Ja kun kermaa kirnuttiin
niin siitä tuli voita.

Vanhat ajat, niistä kyllä
riittäis kertomista.
Tarjoilija, olkaa hyvä,
tuokaa pizzalista.

Oh boy. Did I already mention how much I love rhyming poems…?

Illustrated treasures: Hvordan Greger Grinebiter havnet i bitter duell, og alt nesten ble helt rosa

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the second book in my archive of inspiring children’s books, a Norwegian treasure (which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have been translated to English) written and illustrated by Camilla Kuhn:


Hvordan Greger Grinebiter havnet i bitter duell, og alt nesten ble helt rosa
Loosely translated: How George The Neighbourhood Stalker Got Into A Duel And The World Almost Turned Rosy
by Camilla Kuhn

Badge of greatness for the hilarious story and lively illustrations


Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu1 This Norwegian book tells a story of an old bitter neighbourhood stalker, whose life revolves around making sure that no-one breaks the rules. He has covered the corridors with warnings and reminders and is always looking for a chance to complain. One day whilst spying on his neighbours from the window, he notices that someone is actually keeping an eye on him. It turns out that another stalker has moved into the same building. This is of course very upsetting, as there can’t be two spoilsports in the same area. To find out who gets to stay and who has to move out, the two stalkers have to compete in who is the best at complaining and being a difficult neighbour.

Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu2
When I realized that this book was made by an author-illustrator, my jaw sort of dropped. Firstly, because the story itself is extremely amusing and well-written (I read the Finnish translationMiten herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä joutui kauhukääkkien kaksintaisteluun ja maailma melkein muuttui ruusunpunaiseksi”. It was great, so applause to the translator!). The humour in the book is very smart, starting from the names of the characters to witty points made about the rules and formalities that anyone who’s ever lived in an apartment building can relate to. Secondly, the illustrations are simply brilliant; I read the book twice, first focusing on the story and then going back to take a more profound look at the images. Each page is full of life, expressions and details that make the story all the more fun. I think Camilla Kuhn really excels in telling an amusing story, both visually and in writing. The story stays close to real life with the events taking place in ordinary locations like a supermarket, but the exaggerated details and little absurdities make it extremely imaginative in all its commonness.

Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu3In terms of colours, the book stood out on the shelf for its fairly muted, earthy colour palette. Whilst reading the book, I wondered if more vibrant choice of colours would have made it even better, making the characters and the environments pop up and draw the reader’s attention. However, I concluded that the muted tones were actually exactly what the story needed; they created the kind of vibe that immediately brings you to the suburbs, where average families, the elderly and a few neighbourhood stalkers live.


Herra Yrmäs Korttelikyylääjä-lastenkirja-arvostelu4This kind of amusingly realistic stories are totally my cup of tea. Camilla Kuhn seems to have been quite prolific as an author-illustrator, so I will have to find out if her other books have been translated to Finnish or English. Someone, who had reviewed this neighbourhood stalker-book, mentioned that the humour is similar to the one in Erlend Loe’s Kurt-series, so those books should be worth of checking out, too!