What is it about Helen Ward?

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What is it about Helen Ward?

jul. 23, 2014, 11:12am

New tangent.

I am so intrigued by the illustrator (and author and folktale adapter) Helen Ward.

It started with her interpretation of The Wind in the Willows which I was equivocal about until I spent significant time with them.
I fell deeply in love with her version of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

Her talents are exceptional.
I'm gathering up all of her work and will share my thoughts on them here.

In the meantime, here is a 2008 interview from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/29/featuresreviews.guardianreview32

Editat: jul. 23, 2014, 3:09pm

Since I have it in front of me and it needs to be returned to the library, I'll start with The Story of Noah and the Ark

A couple of interesting side notes. The text author doesn't appear on the cover; and the publisher is Templar. Copyright date is 1989, so towards the beginning of her career, but by the publisher which ultimately supported her financial success. I'm guessing that her editors were helping by suggesting story projects that would play to her strengths.

Animals of all sorts is one of those strengths. She crowds the page with animals, given a choice. The Ark is a perfect subject. Her animals are always gorgeous, usually in profile, and usually at rest.
Even her animals in motion appear to be frozen in space. It's almost a trope. One page has fish arching over the waves, and they all look like wood cut-outs

Her humans are stocky and also very posed, almost always in full profile. Noah is depicted as an Amish carpenter, complete with wide brimmed black hat and long leather apron. His family is similarly attired.

The trees are stylized savannah trees, tall, with branches and leaves forming a brief umbel.
She depicts weather nicely. Her only true action is the wind blowing raindrops and straw about. Even her birds and insects look posed and on hold.

The crowds are always well-behaved. One or more are gazing 'into the camera.'

I looked up Geraldine McCaughrean and SURPRISE! she is a highly respected and award winning writer. She wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet which was allowed only after winning a competition to do so. She was already winning awards in the late 1980s. She doesn't list this title on her webpage, though there are many other classics retellings that are.

The other part of serendipity is that I just today stumbled across the illustrator of Peter Pan in Scarlet, David Wyatt, and I'm enamoured of some of his work now.

jul. 28, 2014, 2:42pm

Working on reviews, but just wanted to put this placeholder in for The Story of Christmas,

which you will recognize as being of the same vintage as The Story of Noah and the Ark. McCaughrean is the writer, and it was published in 1994, maybe earlier. They are companion books, and there may have been an intention for a whole series of bible stories.

It occurs to me that the human figures remind me of card puppets. Noah, in particular, could have been jointed and just posed slighly differently in several of the pictures.

ag. 1, 2014, 3:24pm

Helen has written a handful of books and handed off the illustrating to her associate Wayne Anderson. These stories are always life affirming, but are mechanical or human oriented, lacking the animals that she apparently prefers to draw.

A partial list is
Finding Christmas, 2004
The Tin Forest, 2002?
The Dragon Machine, 2003?
Little Moon Dog

(I'll post pictures another time, I'm on a computer with disabled right click.)

She's also written The Boat, illustrated by Ian Andrew.

Anderson's style is very dream-like. I don't particularly like the books.
I'm trying to imagine how an illustrator would not be compelled to draw her own versions of the stories. Anderson is a co-illustrator of the -ology(Dragonology) books, too.

ag. 22, 2014, 5:02pm

I own one of the Wizardology books and dug it out to see if I could identify Ward's work. Nope. There are four illustrators on the copyright page, but there is a homogeneity to the pages, and I couldn't separate any of them out as different. Interesting.

Editat: set. 24, 2019, 12:30pm

Helen Ward early on illustrated several basic childrens books for A. J. Wood. These were themes such as colors, shapes and numbers. He seems to have returned the favor in 1998 by editing her text of The Hare and the Tortoise.

The text is quietly clever, and subtly allows for fabulous pictorial shots. For instance, one page says::: “News of the challenge spread far and wide. From all corners of the Earth an audience began to gather.”; justifying animal representations from every order and climate.

The next page says: “An unbiased referee was found” with 7 lovely animals convincing a quiet retiring mole to take on the job. CUTE mole!!

When hare leaps from stone to stone crossing the river, he is carried away from his goal when he lands on the rump of a hippopotamus. We are treated to an underside view of tortoise paddling quietly but competently across.

Hare gets lost in a peculiar forest made up of the limbs of some of the fastest animals on earth. The end of the book has picture keys and more conversation about some of these record breakers.

In this expanded story, Hare has the pages to take a nap, enjoy a heavy garden produce lunch, and then hears the sound of cheering. The finish line shows onlookers representing some of the fastest, furthest, and slowest species.

The race is comically bracketed with Hare tripping into some very thorny bushes.

Ward has come far in the few years since the Nativity book up in #3. She is masterful. She has overcome her issues with portraying life and motion.

I think the illustration, the prose and the wit behind both make this book 5 stars.

Editat: set. 24, 2019, 12:32pm

Helen Ward’s Nursery Treasury

was published in 1995, and shows a growing confidence with humor and showcases some technical proficiencies. Her animals are still quite posed, but in more fanciful ways. They often wear ruffs and other garments, and there is a page full of a whole troupe of martial and musical cats. A striped tabby blows a horn which startles a banner carrying mouse.

The layout is odd, and so are some of the illustrations, but then we see a lovable Tommy Titmouse fishing in a ditch in the rain. Lots of songbirds and bees and snails stand and fly around as accents. Her fish are again cardboard cutouts, but there is a lively ship of white mice.
Her water renditions are Japanese inspired, but not quite there yet. The floral accent that stands out is a page of thistles going to seed, with birds darting among them.

You can see the first workings of her WITW conceptions in a couple of pictures.
But it’s just too scattered to be wholly appealing. It lacks focus and unity.

Editat: set. 24, 2019, 12:33pm

Helen is experimenting with framing her pictures in her 1991 The Golden Pear.

Humans are prominent in this story (which she wrote), and her discomfort is still obvious. Many of the secondary humans are again posed like cardboard puppets. She prefers to depict big-boned men, solid in all ways. Her inability to pose humans naturally actually begins to look like a style choice. It disturbed me in The Wind in the Willows; I had to spend time with the pictures before liking them.

Her frames are simple rectangles with an arch incorporated into the top line. Sometimes she honors the frame, other times she literally breaks it, and still other occasions, it is there mainly for focus, as the picture continues beyond it.

Her colors, as always, are saturated.

I'll be adding more comments about this one. Not done appreciating it.

set. 11, 2014, 6:50pm

Just found this discussion! Or is it a monologue. At any rate, I like hearing about author-illustrators. Today I came across Heidi, illustrated by Maud & Miska Petersham...but in reality only ONE illustration by them in the whole book, which is disappointing. I didn't need another Heidi that much, although I do have a lot of the Petershams' books.

set. 12, 2014, 11:56am

>9 SaintSunniva: Glad you found your way here. I too love the Petershams, especially their Nativity book.

Editat: ag. 6, 2019, 4:25pm

set. 24, 2019, 12:31pm

Annoying that cover images won't stick if they come from Amazon. Gotta use the member uploaded images. Editing above to bring them back.

set. 24, 2019, 1:02pm

By 2004, Ward has complete control of her material: design, images, themes, text, and fonts.

She produced a lovely Aesop anthology, Unwitting Wisdom. This is a collection of twelve of the stories. Her expanded individual stories (see >6 2wonderY: and >11 2wonderY:) are well worth the time; but these give a good sampling. These would sound good read aloud. She devotes 4 to 6 pages to each tale, and the images are sometimes stunning.



Here are the two covers:


Editat: set. 25, 2019, 2:44pm

Helen Ward loves all animals, but there are some that her brush and pen love to distraction. Both the tortoise and the fox fall into this category.

In 2002, she completed a re-telling of one of La Fontaine's Fables.

The Rooster and the Fox purports to identify the rooster as the clever hero. But the viewer's eye is always drawn to the sleek red streak with the piquant eyes and muzzle.


Similar to >6 2wonderY:, she uses the story to populate the pages with all sorts of older animal breeds; and there is a pictorial guide at the back of the book which offers identifications and more information.

Editat: set. 25, 2019, 2:49pm

This is from Amazon, so won't stick, but it's a fall page from The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

I love the colors on the right side.

oct. 3, 2019, 4:49pm

Thank you for bring Helen Ward to these pages. I somehow had never heard of her, and she's definitely an artist & book designer to know about.

oct. 3, 2019, 5:42pm

My pleasure!

maig 25, 2021, 4:02pm

Gorgeous art! Thank you for sharing.

maig 25, 2021, 7:14pm

Yummy art!