The life of a picture book by Jane Clarke

I recently received an email from my agent, saying several of my picture books are now out of print. This isn’t unusual - most picture books don't become classics - they will often have a small print run and a short life time in the shops and libraries.

But what is comforting is that a picture book’s life doesn’t end when it is no longer in print. Hopefully a family somewhere will treasure a copy and it will last a lifetime - or more.

W-aaa-y back in 1986, when my sons were celebrating their 1st and 3rd birthdays (in the same week), their Grandma and Grandpa brought them the gift of a bright, shiny new copy of (the now out of print)  Henry’s Busy Day written and illustrated by Rod Campbell. (Viking Kestrell 1984).

In my mind’s eye I can still see my mother sitting on the sofa between them, sharing it with them. It has very simple text and illustrations, but it’s full of warmth and affection. We read it to them time and time again.

 My sons first recognised words in it, so it helped them begin to understand and join in with the process of reading. It was so loved, it was impossible to part with it when the boys grew older.  It sat on a shelf for years, untouched, weathering the deaths of their grandparents and their father.

And then along came my sons’ children…

and now I get to read the same book to my 4 granddaughters, and they love it too.

I see from the back that the book cost £4.50, which was quite a lot in 1984 (in relative terms more than picture books cost today), but the memories it brings with it are priceless.

2 small birthday boys with their grandparents 1986

2  big boys with their partners, children (and me) pre-pandemic Xmas

Amazingly the ‘soft, furry coat’  advertised on the cover has survived all the love, though it does need freshening up occasionally with a bit of hand sanitiser. Well, don’t we all these days?

Jane hopes that someone, somewhere is treasuring a tatty old copy of one of her picture books.


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