Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quentin Blake, the pencil magician. First part.

Puedes leer esta entrada en español pinchando aquí.

I can’ really tell which book was the first one I saw illustrated by Quentin Blake. I believe it was “The Wild Washerwoman” (John Yeoman, 1979). What I can say, is that there is plenty of his illustrated books all around the house where I live, what makes me really happy, because I enjoy them so much! :D 

Spanish publishing of "The Wild Washerwoman"

His style is so fresh! All his drawings have a simple and quick hand, but are very expressive and full of life and details. And of course, they are very “riquiños”. :D
He has illustrated around 300 books! That’s a lot! And I know there is plenty of information on the web about him, but I couldn’t find anywhere all is artworks with images, etc… That’s why I decided to dedicate a few posts to him, so we can all have a better idea about him, how he started, his collaborations, his own books, etc…  This first one will be from the beginning until 1968, the year in which he wrote and illustrated his first book.

As many of his very first books are really hard to find, much of the images are from other websites and a link to the site is attached to the images, otherwise, they are pictures of the ones I have in my house. If you are the owner of any of the websites I’m using the image from, and you do not want me to, let me know so I’ll remove it. If somebody has some of the books I talk about on the post with no image, and wants to contribute with a picture of it, I would really appreciate it. Thank you! ;D

An after this introduction… Here it goes! :D

Quentin Saxby Blake was born in Sidcup, Kent, a suburb in the Southeast of London, on 16 December 1932. He was a silent child who was always drawing.

While in school, he sent drawings to Punch magazine, and at last, when he was 16, this magazine published for the first time some of his drawings. Since then he started to make illustrations, and even some covers for Punch, The Spectator and some other magazines.

Left: Sir Alfred Munning, Punch Magazine 10 March 1954. Image source:Punchcartoons. Right: Punch Magazine Cover, 8 April 1959. Image source: Punch-cartoons blogspot

Curiously, despite of his drawing vocation, from 1953 to 1956 he took a degree in English at Downing College in Cambridge.

In 1956 he studied at Cambridge Art School and one year later he became a freelance illustrator.

But it was in 1960 when he illustrated his first children book, “A Drink of Water, and other stories”, wrote by John Yeoman. That same year he illustrated his second one, “Come here till I tell you”, a collection of the Parick Campbell’s articles from The Spectator, Lilliput and The Sunday Dispatch. He teamed up with both authors on many other books in the following years.

"Come here till I ell you". Image source: Bookshops

Since then he was the illustrator of so many books, that I think that the best way, is to talk about them year by year with some exceptions like series or collections.


In this year he made again collaboration with John Yeoman, “The Boy Who Sprouted Antlers”, the story of Billy, a boy who takes up with his friend Melanie the challenge to grow up horns and… he gets it!

Image source: Haroldhockey

“Albert the Dragon” was the first book of a trilogy about the adventures of a dragon wrote by Rosemary Weir, that he illustrated. The other two were “Further adventures of Albert the Dragon” (1964) and “Albert the Dragon and the Centaur" (1968).

Alber the Dragon trilogy. Images source: Iberlibro

Also he illustrated “The Wonderful Button” of Evan Hunter, and that year reprints of “Good Morning, Miss Dove” (Frances Gray Patton, 1954) and “The boys’ country book” (John Moore, 1955)

Left:"The Wonderful Button". Image source: Abebooks. Right:"Good Morning, Miss Dove". Image source: A Penguin a week blogspot


He made a new collaboration with Patrick Campbell, “Constantly in Pursuit”. The other books he made drawings for are “My Son-in-Law the Hippopotamus” by Ezo, “Listen and I’ll tell you” (Edward Korel) and “Punky: Mouse for a day” (John Moreton).

Left: "Constantly in Pursuit". Right: "Listen and I'll Tell You". Images sorce: Abebooks
Left: "My Son-in-Law the Hippopotamus". Right: "Punky:Mouse for a day". Images source: ChildrensBookshop


Again he illustrated two books by Patrick Campbell, “Brewing up in the basement” and “How to Become a Scratch Golfer”. The third one he worked for that year was “Tales of a wicked uncle”, a children verse book by Rupert Croft-Cooke.

Left: "Brewing Up in the Basement". Image source: Abebooks. Right: "How to become a Scratch Golfer". Image source: Classics of Golf
"Tales of a Wicked Uncle". Image source: Fantastic Fiction


Apart from the previously mentioned “Further adventures of Albert the Dragon”, he illustrated “Gardeners’ Question time” in which Ken Ford, Allan Gemmell, Fred Loads and Bill Sowerbutts answer gardening questions asked over 30 years on the BBC Radio 4 program with the same name, “The Gentle Knight” by Richrad Schikel, “Riddles, riddles everywhere” (later named "Pick-A-Riddle) by Ennis Rees, “The Next-Doors” by Joan Tate and “The Oxford Book of Stories for Juniors” by James Britton, a three volumes collection published between 1964 and 1966.

Left: "Gardener' Question Time". Image source: Abebooks. Right: "The Gentle Knight". Image source: Open Library
Left: "Riddles, riddles everywhere". Right: "PIck-a-Riddle". Images source: Abebooks

Also he started with the first of a series of 6 books about a millionaire elephant wrote by J.P. Martin, “Uncle”. The other ones are “Uncle Cleans Up” (1965), “Uncle and his detective” (1966), “Uncle and the Treacle Trouble” (1967), “Uncle and Claudius the Camel” (1969) and “Uncle and the Battle for Badgertown” (1973).

Uncle series. Images source:


Detective Agaton Sax series were written by Swedish author Nils-Olof Franzen from 1955 to 1978 and were a total of 11 books illustrated by Åke Lewerth. The English edition, with one book less, was illustrated by Quentin Blake, and the first of them, “Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves”, was published in 1965. The other ones are “Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery” (1969), “Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers” (1970, “Agaton Sax and the Bank Robbers” in 1973 reprint), “Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles” (1970), “Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes” (1972), “Agaton Sax and the London Computer Plot” (1973), “Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders” (1974), “Agaton Sax and the Haunted House” (1975), “Agaton Sax and the Big Rig” (1976), “Agaton Sax and Lispington's Grandfather Clock” (1978).

Agaton Sax series. Images source: Abebooks and Amazon

Other books enriched with his drawings are “Aphrodisiacs in your garden” by Charles Connell, the book of the BBC radio program by Bill Hartley “Motoring and the Motorist”, “Pun Fun” by Ennis Rees, and “The P-P-Penguin Patrick Campbell” and “Rough Husbandry” by Patrick Campbell.

Left to Right: "Aphrodisiacs in Your Garden", "Pup Fun" and "Rough Husbandry". Images sorce: Amazon


Apart from the mentioned, “Uncle and his detective” and “The Oxford Book of Stories for Juniors Vol III “, this year he illustrated a new edition of Jules Verne “Around the World in Eighty Days” , “Home Economics” by Beryl Ruth and “Aristide” a tale by Robert Tibber about a child how falls asleep on the sea on his new air mattress. 

"Aristide". Image source: Vintage Children's Books


Bits and Pieces” and “Luke’s Garden” by Joan Tate, “Give a dog a good name” by Majorie & Antony Bilbow with short stories about a dog called Worthington, “Living with technology” by H.P. Rickman, “Puzzles for Pleasure and Leisure” by Thomas L. Hirsch and “Tiny Tall Tales” (renamed “Short Tall Tales to Tell” in 1974) by Ennis Rees.

Left: "Bits and Pieces". Right: "Give a Dog a Good Name". Images source: Iberlibro

Left: "Living with Technology". Images source: It is what it is. Keir Hardie's Blog. Right: "Short Tall Tales to Tell". Image source: Amazon

“The Energy Men: What’s Going on in Fuel and Power” by Miles Tomalin, “Put on your thinking cup” by Helen Jill Fletcher, the three volumes of “Success with English: the Penguin Course” by Geoffrey Broughton, and the delicate “Thoughts and Aphorisms from the Fruits of Meditation of Kozma Prutkov” by Aleksey Kontantinovich Tolstoy as Kozma Prutkov, limited to 1569 copies.

"Put on your Thinking Cap". Image source: hgc6252g's Space
Pages from "Thougs and Aforims from the Fruits of Meditation of Kozma Prutkov. Images source: Abebooks

But this year was really important, because “Patrick” his first written and illustrated book appeared. It’s an amazing story about a man who changes everything around him when he plays his new violin.

Documentation (apart from the linked above):
Quentin Blake official website:
British Council Literature:

Here you can find some of the books listed on this entry. :D

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