Redstone Press presents the wonderful work of artists under 13, with entries from David Shrigley

Flying dinosaurs and forlorn poetry: Julian Rothenstein curates children’s artwork into a book of unexpected and hilarious takes on life.

Date
15 September 2022

On 22 September, a new book will be unveiled to the world from Redstone Press. Though designed and edited by Julian Rothenstein – the founder of the small publishers – A Gift, as the cover explains, is exclusively from artists, photographers and poets under the age of 13. The back cover offers more detail: “A Gift reminds us of all the things that we have missed, mislaid and forgotten [...] the book is an invitation to wonder, creativity and play.” Frequently laugh-out-loud funny and occasionally heartbreaking, its young authors meditate on moments of daily kid life like waiting for dinner, hoping to have the perfect parent-teacher meeting, and worrying about your dragon being hurt in a storm.

As a small press, the process of curating A Gift presented its own set of issues for Julian – namely, that the publisher is unable to pay normal copyright fees. While always on the lookout for sources of illustration, it was through being “locked down (and of a certain age)” that the publisher had “the luxury of properly exploring Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter” for the first time, Julian tells It’s Nice That. Many of the works in A Gift were found on Instagram or Pinterest. The publisher adds: “Having discovered a good collection of children’s paintings from the 1930s in New York, I had a fairly good basis for research and just had fun over the year.” David Shrigley also offered a helping hand. The visual artist recently wrote on Instagram that the book contains a few images from his ‘collection’, “mostly found and given to me by my old friend [Rupert Harris] when he worked in a charity shop”.

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A Gift, published by Redstone Press. Images courtesy of Redstone Press

Flicking through the pages of A Gift, readers can expect to find selfies, paintings, daring snapshots of sleeping parents, poetry and notes full of emotion. Julian offers his personal highlights: “Mrs Edwards (page 80) makes me laugh [an entry depicting a drawing and poem on a school teacher], as does the drawing on page 75 [an expressionist portrait, another teacher]."

Julian continues: “I found it very hard to find poems that had any joyful feeling from English schools in spite of many hours spent in the Festival Hall’s Poetry Library: it’s as if all English kids are all depressed and the immigrant experience is clearly not a very happy one. But I found a wonderful blog in New Zealand run by a poet who gets children to write wonderfully funny and interesting stuff – that was a breakthrough.”

The final book ranges widely in tone, but at its core, it aims to “spread a little joy”, says Julian. To discover more about A Gift, check out the Redstone Press shop.

GalleryA Gift, published by Redstone Press. Images courtesy of Redstone Press

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A Gift, published by Redstone Press. Images courtesy of Redstone Press

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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