My favourite five: Grandma Z author Daniel Gray-Barnett

Discovering a new favourite character, author or book is a real thrill and the debut release by Daniel Gray-Barnett has been an instant hit not just with me, but with Baby Bookworm too.

But what are the books that inspired this trainee doctor turned self-taught illustrator – and now author? We asked the man behind Grandma Z to share his favourite five picture books…

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. £6.99 (paperback), Red Fox

“It’s many people’s favourite for good reason. I think it inspires almost every children’s book creator there is. It has the perfect amounts of imagination, magic and also darkness with a quite concise, effortless text. I love the etched illustrations as well as the way they change in size over the course of the book, growing as Max enters the world of the Wild Things. The book is such a great metaphor for what it’s like to be a child. It’s one of the earliest books I remember loving. The older I get, the more meaningful it becomes.”

Tikki

Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. £5.84 (paperback), Saint Martin’s Press

“This book showed me how wonderfully fun words can be. The title character’s ridiculously long, rhyming name is something that I still remember off by heart, 30 years later. I also love the limited colour palette in the illustrations. It’s an approach I use in my work all the time.”

Veronica

Veronica by Roger Duvoisin. £11.99 (hardback), The Bodleian Library

“Roger’s illustrative work is a great example of mid-century illustration that I’m hugely influenced and inspired by. Bold colours, inky lines, textured brushstrokes and patterns – it all looks so modern AND retro. There’s a real charm to work from this time. I love Veronica because like many, I can relate to the conspicuous hippopotamus who wants to leave her home in search of fame in the big city.”

Frog

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. £7.99 (paperback), HarperCollins Children’s

“This book was so memorable to me for the contrast between the two characters and the way their friendship is so endearing and strong. It is probably one of my earliest examples of male characters who have a lot of genuine love and care for each other.”

Revolting

Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl. £5.99 (paperback), Puffin

“I’d like to say, ANYTHING by Road Dahl. My favourite book of his is The Witches but as far as picture books for younger children go, Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts are both a fantastic pair. Dahl’s use of language was very original. I love poetry and these poems certainly have bite! I love that his work is at once whimsical, twisted and sometimes grisly – I think Dahl knew that kids are not only afraid of the dark, they love it!

“His work reminds me that sometimes it’s okay to put your characters through horrible situations. And what can I say about Quentin Blake’s illustrations? The perfect complement to Dahl’s words. I think many people (including myself) have fallen in love with illustration thanks to his work. He makes it all look so easy! I promise, it’s not.”

Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett is out now. £11.99 (hardback), Scribe UK. Read our interview with Daniel here

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