Friday, 12 June 2020

#Booky100Keepers Day 40: The Books of Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

Another thoroughly lovely person we sometimes get to chat to on Twitter, and someone who is undoubtedly a massive part of what drew C into a love of books. Jonny Duddle's books hark back to when we first started out on the blog, and "The Pirate Cruncher" should probably be blamed for the gigantic upsurge in 'pirate' books that seemed to dominate kidlit for so many years (in fact even now you'll still see pirate-themed books cropping up quite regularly in publishers' release schedules, such is the lure of those scurvy coves).

No one does it better than Jonny though in our opinion and even in his first book you'll find all the trademarks of what make his stories utterly mesmerisingly brilliant, and a huge draw for kids who love glorious vibrant and colourful visuals alongside their bouncy rhyming tales.

This one is the story of a nefarious creature that lures a hapless pirate crew to their doom with the aid of a sneakily manipulated puppet. The puppet tells of a great fortune in booty, hidden on an island across the seas and Captain Purplebeard can't wait to get his hands on all that lovely gold.

But it's a one way trip as the crew are picked off one by they get closer and closer to their destination. I remember the first time we read through this and C eagerly noting all the bits where you see the pirate cruncher itself, subtly hidden just out of frame but always with a menacing tentacle directing the action 'off screen'.

Jonny's concept art and storyboarding props made this book stand out in a picture book market largely dominated by some fairly bland 'house' art styles. I would spend hours, independently of reading these books with C, just gazing at his digital art (sometimes with the aid of a magnifying glass) trying to work out just how he could produce such fantastic painterly strokes using Photoshop. The simple answer is raw talent and he has it in spades.

"The Pirates Next Door" followed, this time introducing us to Matilda - and a pirate family who have since gone on to another picture book adventure ("The Pirates of Scurvy Sands") and a successful series of middle grade books all written and illustrated by Jonny.

This one has a brilliant moral in it, a subtle and quite sobering message about tolerance as a new family move into the sleepy seaside town of Dull-on-Sea (we always giggle at the fact that the town is 'twinned' with "Ennui Sur Mer"). The pirate family aren't prim, aren't proper, and don't fit in with the neighbourhood at all - making them - and their son Jim Lad - all the more amazing to Matilda, who has waited for something cool to happen in her town for ages.

Sadly their visit is fleeting, and soon they are on their way again as a pirate life isn't a static one, and they must sail the seven seas rather than settle down in a two up / two down in a seaside suburban setting. Again as with all Jonny's books it's just gorgeous to look at but this one really does hit home with its core message with far more impact than any of his other books.

But ah, this next one...this one's our real favourite (and yet Jonny would probably be the first to admit that it was the book that probably didn't do as well as the others, we still think it's the best though!)

"The King of Space" is Jonny's visually glorious love letter to all things sci-fi as young Rex decides that life as a Moog farmer isn't for him.

He has loftier goals, in fact with a sharp inventive mind and a ton of ambition, he will become the King of Space, the leader of the known universe - and never have to do any rotten homework or go to bed before 9pm ever again!

Rex's plans don't quite pan out as he expected as he soon realises that the most powerful being in the universe really isn't one to be trifled with. What mum says goes!

We always secretly wished that Jonny would go back to this science fiction universe he invented and spin out a couple of new adventures for Rex, but it was not to be.

As well as achieving fame for illustrating (in our opinion) the BEST covers for J.K Rowling's Harry Potter books, Jonny also stepped way, way back in time with "Gigantosaurus"...

A prehistoric take on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and now a successful TV series, this one once again shows Jonny's pure skill in designing and illustrating brilliantly realised characters and sumptuous bookworlds for them to live in. The simple tale of a dinosaur named Spike who constantly plays tricks on his pals, threatening them with the terrifying Gigantosaurus, reaches a satisfying climax as Spike almost (but not quite) gets his comeuppance in a delicious pay-off moment that is a bit of a rare thing in picture books - a moment where the reader isn't quite sure whether the main character just came to an abrupt and sticky end.

Perfect for dino-obsessed kids, Jonny works in a colossal fold-out dinosaur chart and some facts about the dinosaur that the Gigantosaurus was based on (Actually the Gignatosaurus).

We're waiting to see how Jonny's latest book plans pan out. We know he's cooking up something to do with Vikings but no more than that, suffice to say we'll be first in the queue for a copy when it does finally arrive. We were very fortunate to meet Jonny in real life at the Oxford Literary Festival (see the article below) and he's an entertaining and brilliant ambassador for children's literature, with an enviable talent for producing truly stunning books and art.

Original Articles and Review Links

The Pirate Cruncher

Our second book of the week - "The Pirates Next Door" by Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

Jonny Duddle brings awesome tales of pirates and dinosaurs to the Oxford Literary Festival

The Jolley-Rogers and the Monster's Gold by Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

Gigantosaurus by Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

A fabulous "This or That" question and answer session with the pirate meister himself, Jonny Duddle, Author and illustrator of "The Pirates of Scurvy Sands"

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week, Week Ending 22nd February 2013 - "The King of Space" by Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 28th June 2019: "The Jolley-Rogers and the Pirate Piper" by Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's First Book of the Week - Week ending 9th February 2018 - "The Pirates of Scurvy Sands" by Jonny Duddle (Templar Publishing)

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book and Early Readers Roundup - May 2015 - "Pirates, Detectives, Squirrels and Snozzcumbers!"