Every illustrator and writer has grown up with inspirations from a variety of sources. This week, illustrator Rekha Salin wanted to find out what books Hannah Sanguinetti feels inspired her.

As an emerging author/illustrator with my first projects due to be published later this year, I feel rather inexperienced to be writing this article, but it's an honour to be asked so I'll give you my two pennies' worth, nonetheless. I write and illustrate mostly for 3–6-year-olds, working with paper and textile collage to build images which I either scan or photograph. This approach to artwork has evolved organically from my life-long love of fabric, yarn, and doll-making rather than being a 'style' that I sought to emulate. Equally, my other life-long love of music, my singing and cello experience and my music degree influence my writing voice; lyrical, flowing, and enjoyable to read aloud. Add to this mix a happy childhood in a family loving nature, music and craft, and my creative choices are understandable.

We moved to live in Italy a few years ago and I'm currently visiting family and friends in the UK, so these inspirations are from my childhood bookshelf in my family home, rather than my studio shelves in Trieste. My mother was an early-years teacher and so kept almost all the books my sister and I enjoyed to use them in the classroom. She also kept adding more stories as we grew older, feeding our enjoyment of picture books way beyond the intended age-range. These are by no means all the picture books still in the house! Here is a whistle-stop tour of some of my childhood favourites and the way I have been inspired by them, consciously and subconsciously, in my work today.


Bookshelves of childhood favourites

Helen Oxenbury's work is a huge inspiration for me. Her gentle writing and repetitive text, use of white space, clarity, expression, and sense of place are just wonderful. 'Friends', pictured below, is a wordless board book I enjoyed as a baby, but I grew up with many of her books and loved sharing 'Farmer Duck' with my own children. I recently made this image of a little girl enjoying a muddy puddle, and I think the simple face shape and features and the white background is very reminiscent of Oxenbury's work.

Image of a little girl enjoying a muddy puddle alongside Helen Oxenbury's work

The whimsical world of Richard Scarry used to fascinate me. I loved the crazy behaviours of all the animal characters, the attention to detail, the gentle humour and the bright colours, again with a white background. Here are some pages from the 'Best Story Book Ever' with one of my Scarry-inspired animal family collages.

Pages from the 'Best Story Book Ever' with one of Hannah's Scarry-inspired animal family collages.

Michael Foreman's illustrations have always inspired me for his exuberant, emotive use of colour. There were few books at the time that had such stunning colour palettes, and Foreman's illustrations for Jones' 'Fairy Tales' have stayed in my mind for years. This is a book that I don't have on my own bookshelves so I can't read it regularly, but I consciously try to emulate the beautiful colours I loved so much as a child. Here are two of my colourful creations on the left, with Foreman's work on the right.

Two of Hannah's colourful creations on the left, with Foreman's work on the right.

Another all-time favourite of my is the work of Shirley Hughes; traditional pen and ink with watercolour illustration that perfectly capture the movements, expressions, and behaviours of children. Hughes writes mostly about daily life for young children and families; gentle, extremely relatable stories with musically descriptive text that is a joy to read aloud. Recently I was playing with collage papers left over from a larger image, not aiming to create anything particular but just going with the flow to see where it went. This little girl (below right) appeared on my page all of her own accord, but she's so clearly inspired by my early memories of Hughes' 'Two Shoes, New Shoes' that the image stayed in my sketchbook, and I haven't developed it further.

Little girl inspired by Hughes'Two Shoes, New Shoes'

The boundaries between inspiration and copyright infringement can be a little blurred, and I am keen to avoid crossing from one area into the other. If I am actively seeking inspiration from other books for my work, I usually pick up something that is not a children's book. I love working with fabric and am still drawn to strong colours, so textile art is a big source of inspiration for me. I think that taking ideas from another art form and incorporating them into my illustrations helps to keep my work looking original and feeling fresh.

Books that inspire Hannah

Kaffe Fassett and many other patchwork artists make stunning quilts pictured in these two books that I frequent pore over. Frances Pickering and Shelley Rhodes both use mixed media and stitching in a way that I regularly bring into my sketchbooks and occasionally sneak into my book illustrations. One teddy bear character I created for my recent books is made from knitted body parts and embroidered facial expressions: an idea stemming from my textile inspirations rather than the work of other illustrators.

Hannah's mixed media illustration of a teddy bear

Apart from recommendation from friends or colleagues, colour and textiles in illustrations are the main elements that drive me to pick up a new book. I've just bought the following two books as spontaneous purchases, and for these exact reasons; a wealth of information and descriptive photos in 'World Textiles' and King-Chai's fantastic, collaged colours and cut-out paired with Donaldson's brilliant writing in 'Animalphabet'. I do love a story that is beautifully written, but it is always the images that call to me first.

More books that inspire Hannah

I was fortunate to be able to visit the Bologna Children's Book Fair this year where I discovered many new and inspiring authors and illustrator. One stand-out artist for me was Baek Heena from South Korea. Her illustrations, using photographed 3D figures, combine many elements I am particularly drawn to and I would love to own one of her books.

Baek Heena's book 'Joni'

I'm going to end this visual feast with another absolute favourite of mine that you may not know. 'Pelle's New Suit', by Elsa Beskow, was first published in its original Swedish in 1912 and is now available in English from Floris Books. I grew up with this story because I have family in Sweden, so the copy I know is in Swedish with my uncle’s translation into English. For me it is a perfect example of narrative non-fiction with a gentle and heart-warming storyline and a very strong sense of place. Given its age, it is now also an important historical representation of village life in Sweden at the turn of the century.

'Pelle's New Suit', by Elsa Beskow

The story follows Pelle along each step of the making of his new suit; from shearing his sheep through carding wool, spinning, dyeing, weaving, cutting, and stitching. Pelle does what he can on his own and when he needs skilled help from others, he trades his labour for theirs; weeding his grandmothers' vegetable patch as she cards his wool or caring for his sister as his mother weaves. Through the story, we meet other members of Pelle's family and his village and see the way these traditional crafts were worked and how people lived. Beskow's gorgeous and detailed elements describe the place and time just beautifully, and her easy and graceful writing tells the story with just the right pace. If I could combine my inspirations of textiles, colour, and a lyrical text for young children, it could be a modern-day version of ‘Pelle's New Suit’ and would be a dream project for me.

'Pelle's New Suit', by Elsa Beskow

*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

*All other images provided by: Hannah Sanguinetti


Hannah Sanguinetti is a children’s illustrator, writer and doll-maker based in Trieste, Italy. In 2018 she was awarded the Moniack Mhor Writing for Children award, and the Margaret Carey Scholarship for Illustration. She is also the 2022 winner of the SCBWI British Isles conference Pitch. 

See more of Hannah's work here. Follow her on Instagram.


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 Twitter


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.

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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.

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