INSPIRATIONS FROM THE BOOKSHELF Jen Jamieson

Every illustrator and writer has grown up with inspirations from a variety of sources. Illustrator Rekha Salin, wanted to find out what books illustrator Jen Jamieson feels inspired her.


Tell us a bit about yourself.


I am Jen Jamieson, a children's illustrator based in Bucks, UK. I began illustrating for children during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and since then, I have contributed illustrations to six published books. One middle-grade cover, another illustrated middle-grade book, one non-fiction picture book, and three fiction picture books.



Which genre do you illustrate for?


Anything and everything! 




Will you show us your collection of Kidlit books & talk about what they mean to you?


I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to children’s books, and have bookshelves full of picture books and chapter books. I put these forward-facing shelves up above our reading spot and try to keep books on rotation and allow easy access so my kids can choose books. Here are a few of my current faves from our bookshelves, chosen by myself and my son!

Monsieur Roscoe

Jim Field

We love this book as the illustrations are so inviting. It’s a great way to begin to introduce a second language while keeping things fun and still telling a narrative.


The Same But Different Too

Written by Karl Newson

Illustrated by Kate Hindley

This book is extremely dog-eared and torn, which is of course a compliment because it means we have read it so so so much. The kids love the gorgeous animal character illustrations and, like all of Karl’s books that I have read, it’s so easy and fun to read aloud. 


When my daughter was younger and asked questions about the world, we found this book was a great reference to help her understand there are differences but also similarities in everyone.



You’re So Amazing

Written by James and Lucy Catchpole

Illustrated by Karen George

This book, along with the first, What Happened To You? has played a really vital part in helping me understand how the world may feel for my son, who has a visible physical difference. This is one of those books where the authenticity just oozes out of it, and is a great example of why writing from a lived experience is often so important in storytelling.​


Grandad’s Camper

Harry Woodgate

Both Grandad’s Camper and Grandad’s Pride are really beautiful, very special books that help us discuss different types of relationships and family dynamics.


strongly believe that helping children understand and celebrate all the different types of people in this world will ensure they grow up to be accepting, compassionate and open-minded adults. 



Ada Twist, Scientist

Written by Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by David Roberts

These books are just wonderful. David’s characters are so brilliant and well-considered, and every line is drawn to perfection. The stories are wonderful (we have the whole collection) and they have really helped my daughter develop a love for science and engineering.


Dogs Don’t Do Ballet

Written by Anna Kemp

Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

We absolutely LOVE this book. The dancing dog is just adorable. Sara really is the queen of gorgeous doggy characters. And the concept is so simple yet powerful and it's so fun to read.


Little People Big Dreams, Greta Thunberg

Written by Maria Isabel Sånchez Vegara

Illustrated by Anke Weckmann

The Little People, Big Dreams books are another series that we own a lot of. I find they are a really brilliant way to introduce important current and historical figures in an engaging, age-appropriate way.


I love Anke’s characterisation of Greta. Creating books that children love to read, and grown-ups love to have on display like art is a brilliant accomplishment and I feel these books achieve that more 

than most. 



Speak Up

Written by Nathan Bryon

Illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Following Look Up and Clean Up, Speak Up is another brilliant story following Rocket, an extremely loveable character, as she helps to save her local library.


We love these books for the great storytelling and also the wonderful details Dapo includes in the illustrations. My son always talks about what the cat is up to. No idea if it has a name but we call it Choppy Chop...!


Never Show a T-rex a Book​

Written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande

Illustrated by Diane Ewen

This book series, alongside the Look Up series, is my number one 'Need to Buy a Gift' book. It’s a wonderful love story to read and book, done in a hilariously funny way that is a joy to read aloud. We also have Never Teach a Stegosaurus To Do Sums, and I am sure this book has helped fuel my daughter’s love for numbers. My personal favourite is Never Let a Diplodocus Draw, because it has dinosaurs AND art, how brilliant!


Hot Dog

Doug Salati

The visual storytelling in this book is just off the charts. The contrast between the busy city scenes in the confined panels versus the large tranquil spreads of the beach really helps you empathise with the poor little Hot Dog. The story is so powerful in its simplicity, it’s truly inspirational.



What inspires you to pick up or buy a book from the library/bookstore or buy online?


I love keeping up with new releases and buying books from fellow authors and illustrators that I admire. I think it’s really important we support contemporary creators, and our bookshelves represent the wonderful, diverse world we live in.


I find a diverse home library results in lots of fun, interesting, and sometimes tricky, conversations with my kids, which means out in the real world they are more empathic and understanding. 



Are you inspired by books from multiple genres written/illustrated by the same author/illustrator? 


Definitely. I try to read a wide range of books and if I find an author I love I will always hunt out more books by them.



Do you bring your inspirations into your work?


I put the whole of myself into my work. The books I read for myself and for my children will definitely contribute to that, as well as a lifetime of experience and creating my own ideas about the world we live in.



How much inspiration do you bring into your works?


If I see an interesting composition or page design, I’ll always keep a note. I have had no formal training in children’s book illustration so feel like reading books with my kids and seeing what resonates and what makes them laugh is a real education.


I love to notice the clothing that illustrators choose to dress their characters in, and how they will accomplish certain emotions or actions. There’s always so much to learn.​



How do you keep your work fresh, original, and unique and avoid looking like your inspiration?


It’s important to keep up with which books are successful and why, but that will only get us so far. I often like to see how something has been done before but will never take too much inspiration from one place. It’s important to look for inspiration from a lot of different places. I will look at books but also film and animation, videos, greeting cards, photos, and different aspects of my family and our lives, as well as the greater world around us.


I have spent a long time developing my own artistic voice and now I have my own process for creating unique characters that live within my world. If you study someone else’s work and wonder why yours looks different, those differences are you and those are the areas to develop as they will become your style. Nothing is ‘wrong’, it’s just you.



Does your bookshelf have all the books that you love or inspired you? 


Not all of them as there are so many but I have most of my current favourites. 



Which are the main few books that have inspired your work and yet not on your bookshelf?


Mainly books from my childhood that I no longer have. I tend to spend my money on contemporary books but know that all the wonderful books I read growing up have helped me become the person and illustrator I am today.



Are there any books that have inspired you in a way that you really wish you worked on a text like that or you wish you thought of the unique way of storytelling? 


Hundreds!


*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo 
all other images: Jen Jamieson
 

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Jen Jamieson is a freelance Illustrator and Designer living in sunny England on the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire border surrounded by beautiful forest. She has contributed illustrations to six published books. One middle-grade cover, another illustrated middle-grade book, one non-fiction picture book, and three fiction picture books.

See Jen's work here. Follow her on Instagram and on Twitter.




Rekha Salin
 has three books published as an illustrator. Two picture books, one in 2020 and the other in 2022, and also a recipe book (for adults) in 2022 published by ABV publisher. She is currently working with Gnome Road Publishing, and this will be available in 2024.

See more of Rekha's work here. Follow her on Instagram and on Twitter.





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Ell Rose
 is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures
Find their work at www.fourfooteleven.com 
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org 

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Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. She has a Master's degree in Children's Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths UOL and a background in marketing and publicity.   

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or www.titaberredo.com 

Contact her at: illuscoordinator@britishscbwi.org



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