{illustrator} Leigh Hodgkinson

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aI occasionally share an illustrator who has caught my eye. See the above “book list,” bottom of the page for other illustrators highlighted on this blog. For ’30 Days of Picture Books’ which is to celebrate Picture Book Month, “Day Sixteen” features two books and an Illustrator’s Spotlight!

Day Sixteen: Limelight Larry AND Boris and the Wrong Shadow

When I did the ’31 Days of Picture Books’ last year and happened across Leigh Hodgkinson’s picture book Goldilocks and Just One Bear  for ‘Day 24,’ I knew I wanted to find more of her work and possibly find out a bit more about her. So I did. You’re welcome. 

leigh goldilocks and one bear image

I’d mentioned on ‘Day 24’ that “there is a Charlie & Lola*-esque quality to Goldilocks and Just One Bear: the easy way the message comes across as the aside it sort of is; the vibrant combination of colors; mixed-media; and the charming and clever British way of phrasing things is about where the similarities go.” So imagine the pleasant surprise when I find out that Leigh Hodgkinson “worked as art director on the BAFTA-award winning animated series, Charlie and Lola.” I learned a few other things from Nosy Crow’s “author” page:

Leigh Hodgkinson“Leigh is an award-winning animator. […] She is also an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, who is absolutely passionate about writing, making things up and daydreaming. Among her many brilliant picture books is Don’t Dip Your Chips in Your Drink, Kate, written by Caryl Hart, which won Highly Commended in the 2010 Sheffield Children’s Book Award, Picture Book Category.

“Leigh lives and works in Sussex with her husband and two young children.”

While Hodgkinson originally when to school in Hull for Illustration, she was exposed to the tantalizing notion of animation, “Animation seemed to encapsulate everything that I loved… design, character, narrative (which are all apparent in picture books) but as well as that you had sound, music and movement which are all very powerful things” (Cupcakes). Even so, the animation industry had its creative constraints.

“Writer & illustrator of jaunty children’s books with past life of animation and unmummishness.”–her twitter.

Working in animation in art direction and creating short films* did not stop her from producing picture books.  I find it impressive that whether she was in school, industry, then having two young children about, she finds space for her creative energy and produces great art that is hers. Besides writing and illustrating, she maintains a shop.


“Leigh Hodgkinson is a children’s writer and illustrator. She has created oodles of picture books. She also makes printed snippysew kits, laser cut brooches, prints and other lovely things under her wonkybutton label. She has a shed and is not afraid to sit in it” (website).

leigh wonkyb050

Hodgkinson’s work has a sweetness and hilarity. She tells Books for Keeps,”I like my books to have a loose, idiosyncratic feel.” She succeeds. Her work is hardly static, the lack of finish makes room for a liveliness and movement–her use of texture doesn’t hurt either.

“I like using textures- whether it is a crayon scribble, layers of tissue paper or collage patterns.  I like things to look home made and tactile as I think as human beings we respond to things that we can relate to. I feel very unemotional about shiny perfect computer images, I much prefer something that has fingerprints or smudgy little mistakes in it. To me this feels more real and has more integrity.” (Cupcakes for Clara interview)

You can read more about her and her artistic approach here: Cupcakes for Clara interview, June 2012.

*Beakus director’s page for Leigh Hodgkinson includes videos of her shorts. I recommend watching “The Wrong Trainers.” Following images from award-winning “Flighty” (2008) and “Moo(n)” (2004).

leigh flighty-032

leigh moon_02**************************************************

boris cover

Boris and the Wrong Shadow by Leigh Hodgkinson; Tiger Tales (US), 2009. originally: Orchard Books (UK), 2008. Sequel to: Boris and the Snoozebox (Tiger Tales, 2008)

Boris wakes up from his catnap to find he has the Wrong Shadow–one belonging to a very small mouse! Boris decides not to let the shadow spoil his afternoon, but it’s difficult when the other cats snicker at him. Even beaky birds ignore him. Boris begins to wonder if he actually is a mouse after all? No, Boris is definitely 100% cat. (Fact.)

When he spies his shadow, skipping past without a care in the world, he follows it. Can Boris find out who is behind the switch-swap and get his own shadow back? (jacket copy)

Layout 1

There is a really nice progression to Boris’s negotiation of the world when wearing the wrong shadow. Following the snickering and undesirable invisibility, he starts to imagine having not his own shadow back, but a bigger shadow, “something with a little more WOW!” By the time hears why Vernon was tempted to take Boris’s restless shadow for a walk, when he says he understands, we know he is sincere. He knows what it feels like to be made small and ignored. He knows how  tempting it can be to try on someone’s shadow for a while. What they learn together is just how silly it is to be anyone but themselves-completely. Their own shadow is less cumbersome, more suitable to their desired lifestyle, and just true to who they are.

boris shadow

The story maintains a current of silliness, of buoying humor. Both the text and illustrations are playful. The colors are bright, textures and collage-work visually exciting, the story ever intent on refocusing the more burdensome problems of self-identification toward dwelling on the aspects that are more meaningful and pleasurable.


larry coverLimelight Larry by Leigh Hodgkinson; Tiger Tales (US) 2011; originally Orchard (UK) 2010

This book is FANTASTIC because it is all about Limelight Larry. In fact, it is SO fantastic that Larry doesn’t think there is any room on the pages for anyone but him! But after Larry kicks everyone out, he wonders what IS the point of showing off all by yourself? It certainly isn’t much fun. (back cover)

LimelightLarry_01Animals and their opinions on books and storytelling begin appearing, much to Larry’s surprise and dismay–isn’t this book supposed to be about him?! What are they doing there? They need to leave. Pages are becoming cramped with other characters and activities, “The page is completely cluttered, and Larry’s lovely feathers are starting to get all crimpled and crumpled.” Worse, he is being forced to compete. What to do but reassert his presence?

larry_04‘Course, where does that leave him? Alone. Limelight Larry is a funny (and really pretty) little story about wanting to show-off and be the center of attention, and still have friends. If you are tempted to use this to curb your little performer’s limelight-loving behavior, seek elsewhere. But it will function as a good reminder that sharing your book isn’t the worst idea. They just might add something one could come to appreciate. And as Hodgkinson mentions below, flawed is still lovable.

“Larry is kind of my secret favourite. I love the fact that he is a bit grumpy and uppity and not fluffy and cute like most main characters in picture books. I love the fact that he can be flawed but still lovable – just like us real people.” –Leigh Hodgkinson (Cupcake interview)

{images belong to Leigh Hodgkinson}

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

3 thoughts on “{illustrator} Leigh Hodgkinson

  1. Not that I don’t get jealous anytime I see art I enjoy, but there is something about children’s book illustration that makes me even more envious of creativity. And this is no exception. These are delightful images and I love the way the work looks layered. So creative and fun.

    1. I am the same, art appreciation for me, illustration especially, is always by that deep sigh of longing.

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