Suzi Kemp is a London-based illustrator whose hilarious, fluoro-angst drawings are seemingly inspired by such much-loved characters as Adrian Mole and the teenage teddy boys of the 1960’s. Her tattoo-like drawings are infused with as much girl-power as they are magnificent puns and scraggy hands, which is why her selection of books is particularly wonderful. Intrigued? Read on…
Karlheinz Weinberger: Rebel Youth
A fascinating and inspiring book of photographs portraying the teenage teddy boys and girls of Switzerland in the 1960’s, otherwise known as Verlausten (Lice-Infested Ones). The european teens are a little out of step from their USA counterparts, their customised outfits are grossly exaggerated, caricaturing rock ‘n’ roll style. They wear huge bullet shell cases and keys round their necks, and massive horseshoe belt buckles probably half-inched from the hooves of cart horses. Even better are the customised, hand painted jackets, with gang names and slogans like “The Jets” and “The Sharks”. An excellent portrayal of a tiny teenage sub-culture, that could easily have been overlooked and unappreciated if it wasn’t for photographer Karlheinz Weinberger.
Sue Townsend: Adrian Mole
Adrian Mole instilled in me an appreciation for teenage poetry – sometimes I search the web for angsty haikus. I grew up with Mole, and his colloquial ramblings shaped my humour and inspired a fascination of suburban British life. I picked up where I left off with the series a few weeks ago, Adrian is now 24 and grafting in tough financial times – relevant to my life once again! Sue Townsend is an incredibly sharp and subtly hilarious writer, a true hero of mine, and the only person I have had the urge to write a real-life fanmail to.
Alan Aldridge & WIlliam Plomer: The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshoppers Feast
A wonderfully rich, surreal and psychedelic illustrated book. I own a musty first edition, complete with an invite to “The Ball” tucked into the pages. This book belongs to my grandparents, I found it on a shelf in their unassuming bungalow, and as a youngster pored over the darkly surreal and detailed images. When I left home to study illustration, they delivered this book to me in a sandwich bag. It will travel with me to every house I ever live in.
Philip Ridley: Scribbleboy
Growing up I used to devour a book a day, and Ridley’s very relevant “urban fairytales” shaped my imagination. Ridley gave me a love of words and showed my young self how powerful creative language and writing can be. His books are incredibly important as they feed a wild imagination, and at the same time tackle unconventional life experiences, unlike most books for younger children. Scribbleboy pairs the story with charismatic ink drawings by Chris Riddell, which I used to practise copying and also had a huge influence on my aspirations to illustrate.
Etwas Von Den Wurzelkindern: Sibylle von Olfers
The English name of this book is The Story Of The Root Children, however I own the German copy. My Mum lived in Germany for a while, so I suppose she must have bought it there. I can’t translate it as I don’t speak German, but the illustrations are wonderfully strange and well composed which is why I love it. This book was first published in 1906, and written and illustrated by female artist and writer Sibylle von Olfers. The influence of Art Nouveau is fascinating to study within the illustrations. Symmetrical compositions of bare trees and roots and flat distant landscapes are dotted with strange characters, giant ants and stag beetles. Very odd, and a book I always keep on hand to flick through.