CCB is delighted to announce a new patron, multi award winning writer Philip Reeve who trained as an illustrator, and worked for many years providing cartoons and illustrations for the Horrible Histories and Murderous Maths books. He has written several highly acclaimed books for children and his first novel, the award winning Mortal Engines, a post-apocalyptic adventure published in 2001, has been made into a film directed by Christian Rivers and due for release in December 2018.
Q: What book changed your life?
I’m asked this sort of question a lot, and I’m never sure how to answer, because there were all sorts of books which made big impressions on me. I expect the first was some long-forgotten picture book that my parents read to me in 1966 and which made me realise there was fun to be had in turning pages and seeing words and pictures. When I was a bit older, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Lord of the Rings hooked me on fantasy and imaginary worlds, while Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novels opened windows into the history of the real one. A few years after that, a load of science fiction stories borrowed from the local library expanded my imagination in different directions. I suppose every book I’ve ever read has changed my life in some small way. Even the ones I hated helped to encourage me to write my own – I wasn’t sure I could really write, but I knew I could do better than that!
The book which probably had the biggest effect on me is not a novel or a short story collection but a book of pictures. The Land of Froud is an album of illustrations by the Chagford-based artist and illustrator Brian Froud. I found it in my local bookshop in Brighton in the autumn of 1979 and knew at once that I had to have it, even though it cost a whopping £3.95 (which was a lot of pocket-money in those days). It starts with a short essay about Froud’s work, and then devotes dozens of full-colour plates to the work itself – wonderful pictures of goblins and trolls, fairies and questing knights, all painted in subtle, autumnal tones and inhabiting a twilit fantasy world of twisty woods and mossy stones which is basically Dartmoor filtered through the Froud imagination. I was thirteen when I found it; I loved fantasy and I loved Dartmoor, and these images seemed to capture something that I’d always been looking for. I pretty quickly decided that I, too, would be an illustrator and live on Dartmoor. It took me nearly thirty years to get there, but I did it in the end, and it was entirely because of that book. And when I left illustration behind to become a full time writer, it was one of the main sources of inspiration for my Goblins series of comic fantasy novels.
I still love to take The Land of Froud down from the bookcase and look through it on autumn evenings (it’s the sort of book that goes best with dark evenings and crackling fires). It’s long out-of-print and rather a rarity nowadays, but plenty of other Froud books are available, including Faeries, his collaboration with fellow Chagford artist Alan Lee. (You may already be familiar with his work from films Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, which he designed.)