The Picture Book Den team Celebrate the Career of Author Jane Clarke

 Jane Clarke has written over 100 books for children and has been a valued member of the Picture Book Den since it started.

Jane's picture books include Gilbert the Great, illustrated by Charles Fuge, the popular Neon Leon series with Britta Teckentrup, and her latest title for Walker Books, A Small Persons Guide to Grandmas, illustrated by Lucy Fleming.

In October Jane announced her retirement from writing, so with that in mind, the remaining members of The Picture Book Den have dedicated this week's blog post to celebrate Jane's wonderful career in children's publishing.

Natascha Biebow

I was fortunate enough to edit and publish Jane's first book (Sherman Swaps Shells, illustrated by Ant Parker, in the Flying Foxes young fiction series) and collaborate on many others over the years, including G.E.M. illustrated by Garry Parsons, and Dippy's Sleepover, illustrated by Mary McQuillan. Right from the start, Jane's stories struck me for their VOICE. She created such vivid, fun, child-centred worlds on the page! I would love to pay tribute to a particularly fun collaboration to create what became a bestselling and award-winning book.

Knight Time started out as a wordless book. But Sales didn't think they could sell a wordless book - parents would have to figure out the story . . . Also, the story required two points of view as a central theme. How could we do this for very young children without it being confusing? There was something intriguing here, a nugget of a great picture book idea, but we were stuck.

I took the train to see Jane and we spent the afternoon at her kitchen table with sellotape and scissors. We cut up the book and put it back together again. We made a dummy!

Now, readers could see both the Little Knight and Little Dragon's stories building side-by-side until the climactic turning point where their worlds collide - and the age-old expectations are challenged. The reveal? Despite what they've been told about each other, Little Knight and Little Dragon both have teddies and blankies!

I pitched the book to Sales as 'Theatre in a Book', and matched it up with Jane Massey to create the adorable characters and gorgeous world. We managed to get it to cost out with foil on the cover and the die-cut shapes and flaps.

Since then, I've had so much fun collaborating with Jane fairy tale detective picture books (Sky Private Eye series, illustrated by Loretta Schauer) and inventive young fiction books with factual graphic novel elements (Al's Awesome Science and Lottie Loves Nature series, illustrated by James Brown) on the Five Quills list. Best of all, we've become friends and it was Jane who first invited me to be part of the Den, for which I'm so grateful! Working with Jane is an editor's joy - such a talented lady! I hope she really does keep writing, even if it's an archeological adventure for grown-ups. She is far too young to retire! 

Pippa Goodhart

Jane's books speak straight to young children's real lives, revelling in exactly what young children enjoy. I'm going to keep this thank you from the Picture Book Den simple by showing a spread from Jane's How To Tuck in Your Sleepy Lion board book, illustrated by Georgie Birkett, which just seems to sum-up that kind of book that gets requested again and again and again, and even appropriately references a den!

Clare Helen Welsh

Jane has such a talent for combining engaging stories with awe and wonder of the world around us. This is evident in her Neon Leon series, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup and published by Nosy Crow. In Firefly Home for example, children learn about fireflies and different kinds of light sources. The story is gently interactive, inviting children to help Florence on her journey home. As well as being enjoyable and educational, Firefly Home ends with a suitably snuggly ending making it the perfect bedtime read. 

Thank you for sharing your books and picture book insights with us, Jane, and for being a beacon of light in Picture Book Den. 

Garry Parsons

I have been lucky enough to illustrate three books Jane has written but what an unbelievable thrill it was to watch Dolly Parton read 'Stuck in the Mud' on CBeebies Bedtime Stories on New Years eve 2017. 

Thank you Jane for making a wild dream come true. Yeehaw!

Watch Dolly Parton reading Stuck in the Mud by Jane Clarke here

Lynne Garner

Sometime in 2011 (where have the years gone?) I had this daft idea that I wanted to blog about picture books, and it would be nice to be part of a team. So, I put the word out and to my amazement others felt this was a good idea. Jane became part of that first team and her first post appeared on the 15th of March 2012 (click here to read). 

So it’s hard to say goodbye to Jane but at least this post gives me the chance to explain why Jane is such a gifted writer.     


My choice is Creaky Castle – to see Jane reading this book click here.

Now, one of the first lessons I learnt when I started writing picture books only write in rhyme if you are good at it. The reasons being that writing in rhyme for an entire story is hard work. Also, your story must be strong. This is because many picture books are translated and if the story isn’t strong enough this can’t happen. So basically, you must be a great picture book writer to get a rhyming picture book published, especially one that on Amazon has 4.9 stars out of five. So if proof is needed to show Jane's skills as a writer then this is at the top of my list. 


Jane – thanks for being a valued member of the team for the last ten and bit years. We all wish you well and should you get the urge please pop back and write a guest post. We’d love to have you back even if for just a post. 


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